Michael Holman’s ‘Postmark Africa: Half a Century as a Foreign Correspondent’ contains his profound views, sometimes contentious but always passionate, on the evolution of post-independence Africa through his coverage in The Financial Times. He reported on Africa at its most vulnerable and most venal, as well as inspirational – the aftermath of famine in Ethiopia, corruption in Mobutu’s Zaire, the tragedy of Zimbabwe and South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. Through these years he has never succumbed to pessimism. Rather he retained a belief in the continent, pursuing not so much a career as following a vocation.
United Kingdom – Millions have enjoyed and debated the insights Michael Holman has provided through his reports in the financial times over the last fifty years, from Nigeria to Botswana, from Ethiopia to Namibia, Kenya to Zimbabwe.
Holman has been afforded a front-row seat at many of the most pivotal moments in Africa’s modern history, and he’s been lucky enough to talk directly with those who led their countries during the turbulent post independence years.
In his new book, ‘Postmark Africa: Half a century as a foreign correspondent’, Holman has chosen a selection of his articles over the years, ranging from a day in the life of a Nigerian businessman to an evening with a rugby club in small-town South Africa.
He paints a picture of Africa battling to succeed, a game of snakes and ladders, played with long snakes, short ladders and loaded dice.
Michael Holman’s eye-witness reports on the state of sub-Saharan Africa for the Financial Times and other media provide rare insights into the region’s post-independence successes and setbacks. From his accounts of the brutality of the security forces of white ruled Rhodesia to the damage done by foreign aid, Holman encourages the reader to look more closely at a vast continent.
“My life has certainly never been run-of-the-mill,” explains the author. “I was brought up in Rhodesia, and was barely out of my teens when I rebelled against minority rule. For a year I was confined to my home town of Gwelo. I refused to do military service, eventually leaving the country illegally, after two weeks in hiding.
Looking to the future, Holman says there is ”an African renaissance under way, with the emergence of novelists, artists, sculptures, poets, musicians, stylists and designers helping prepare for lasting political reform.”
Reviews have been extremely positive. For example, Ed Balls writes, “Africa has no fiercer critic and no greater advocate than Michael Holman. Passionate, sometimes angry but also caring and often hilarious, Michael Holman once again delivers his trademark combination of beautiful prose and compelling story-telling. This book is both a delight and a tragic tale of hopes still unfulfilled …”
Malcolm Rifkind adds, “This book should be read by anyone who not only wants to know the history of central and southern Africa but to understand its people, black and white. They are a fine people and in Michael they have had an honest, articulate and worthy champion, as rigorous, objective and professional in this book as he was in his journalism as Africa Correspondent for the Financial Times. He has an energy and an eloquence in recording not just what he knows or has analysed but also what he feels to be the reality of his homeland’s tragic experience both under white, colonial domination and the black-led governments that followed …”
Alexander McCall Smith says, “If you want to see what a good man in Africa has done, read this book. It contains profound observations of real and lasting significance on virtually every page …”
Michael Holman was Africa Editor of the Financial Times, 1984-2002.He is also the author of three novels, ‘Last Orders at Harrods’, ‘Fatboy and the Dancing ladies’ and ‘Dizzy Worm’.