Stephen Ellis commences his examination of the plight of the sub-Saharan African by quoting from a 2007 speech by Nicolas Sarkozy. “The tragedy of Africa is that the African man has never really entered history,” said the French president, before adding that the way of life of the “African peasant” meant: “there is no place for human adventure, nor for any progress.” For Ellis, a social sciences professor at the University of Amsterdam, Sarkozy’s patronising view completely belies the truth about the dynamism on the continent. For while he concedes that Africa has serious issues – corrupt ruling classes, abject poverty and violent conflict to name a few – it also has exciting potential. With a population of one billion, vast resources and a flourishing economy that has rebounded from the world financial crisis much quicker than the West, hope abounds. Although this tome is succinct, running in at only 170 pages, Ellis convincingly deconstructs postcolonial pessimism that the region is a lost cause. Whatever its future, Ellis contends that Sarkozy’s opinions are largely erroneous. Progress on the African continent is a certainty.