Maathai argues that Africans need to revive their sense of identity, their cultural inheritance, and a shared sense of common purpose to face the challenges posed by endemic corruption, the legacies of colonialism and the Cold and civil wars, poverty, and – most urgently – climate change. Endless images of nameless starving children aimed at guilt-tripping westerners have been internalised, leading to a demoralised, passive inertia among millions of citizens. Elections may have spread but the true fabric of democracy is often still tragically absent. Only once the continent has rediscovered its own cultural inheritance can it take active responsibility for its own future. Ultimately what Africa needs is a revolution in leadership, but this cannot be ushered in by western governments, well-meaning NGOs, or even Bono and Sharon Stone – it must happen within African civil society itself. As in Unbowed, Maathai's voice is decisive, authoritative, and unsentimental.
Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1940. She is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, which, through networks of rural women, has planted over 30 million trees across Kenya since 1977. In 2002, she was elected to Kenya's Parliament in the first free elections in a generation and served as Deputy Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 in recognition of her campaigns for democracy and environmental reform during the dictatorship of Daniel arap Moi. She died in 2011.
"I hope the world will support her vision of hope"
– Nelson Mandela
"From one of Africa's most positive and far-sighted thinkers comes a wonderful book combining an elegant critique of Africa's troubled past with a rallying cry for how Africans can use culture, nature and self-belief to reverse their continent's decline. The Challenge for Africa is a milestone in African writing that both educates and inspires"
– Tim Butcher
"Penetrating [...] a 21st century manifesto for Africans, drawing on her own experience as a worldly Kenyan, street-fighting activists, member of parliament and, from 2003-2006, government minister. Her analysis is thorough. She reaches into African history, culture, psychology, contemporary politics and fragile ecosystems"
– Financial Times
"Like a Nelson Mandela or a Mahatma Gandhi, Maathai stands way above most mortals"
– The Guardian
"Wangari Maathai is a prophet for our time"
– Alexandra Fuller