Learning to Love Africa: My Journey from Africa to Harvard Business School and Back

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9780066211107: Learning to Love Africa: My Journey from Africa to Harvard Business School and Back

From the remote mountains of Liberia to the epicenter of New York City, Monique Maddy's life has been an extraordinary journey from an idyllic community to the chaos of city living. But Learning to Love Africa is far more than an exile's dream of return. Sent to the west at the tender age of six by her doting father, Maddy has spent her entire life struggling to reclaimher father's dream of progress in his beloved homeland.

Born in Yekepa, a tiny village transformed into a utopian global community by a Swedish multinational corporation, Maddy introduces us to her remarkable father, Emmanuel, an enterprising driver-turned-restaurateur, and her mother, Julia, the descendant of an equally remarkable family of Mandingo entrepreneurs. With loving descriptions of life in this developing world, Maddy introduces us to the sophisticated business skills of her ancestors and shows how her family's acumen and emotional strength became a launching pad for her own ambitions.

In haunting passages that describe her schooling first in England and then in America, we see Maddy's gradual transformation from country girl to savvy intellectual. But her first attempt to return to the continent of her birth, under the auspices of the United Nations, leads only to embittered frustration when it becomes clear to her that the bureaucracy of the international organization will do little to actually improve the lives of Africans -- and will often make their already difficult existence even more miserable.

Disillusioned, Maddy returns to the United States to attend Harvard Business School where she hatches a bold plan to start a telecommunications company in Africa.

Rallying her fellow Harvard students, Maddy sets off to the continent of her birth once again. Learning to Love Africa tells the story of her two-fisted battle against the corruption of African politics and economic life on one hand and the complacency of her Harvard intern team on the other. Unbowed by the obstacles in her way, Maddy tells a rousing tale of what it takes to build a business where the political framework for capitalism doesn't exist, and how to persevere in bringing Africa into the twenty-first century.

Along the way, Maddy recounts with poignant regret and horror how her homeland slips into anarchy and civil war while her father's dream of a better life evaporates and his business and home are destroyed in the conflict. Emotionally charged, vividly described, and deeply felt, Learning to Love Africa is a memoir of despair for Africa, which seemingly has been written off by the developed world, and of tempered optimism for the future Maddy knows Africa can achieve.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Monique Maddy was born in Liberia and educated at Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, and Harvard Business School. She worked for the United Nations in New York City, Indonesia, Angola, and the Central African Republic. Today she is an entrepreneur and elite marathon runner living in Boston.

From Publishers Weekly:

With the fine sauciness of a marathon winner (Boston 2002) and start-up champion (Adesemi, a sub-Saharan African wireless communications service), Maddy combines a warm memoir of growing up in "a middle-class, two-car nuclear family in the tropical jungles of Africa" with an instructive manual for entrepreneurs in developing countries. It's a tale of brilliant success and miserable failure, spiced with a jeremiad against the international agencies (U.N., IMF, World Bank) that are supposed to help but depend "on the careful nurturing and preservation of global poverty." Maddy grew up in Yepeka, Liberia, a town built by a Swedish mining company, moving from there to English public school, the American Ivy League, global corporations and high finance. Her happy childhood gave way to a sad Liberian tale: Pappi's restaurant, dream house and garden were destroyed; the town, once "a miracle in the forest," was reduced to "nothing more than bush and ruin" thanks to the region's tumult. Her concurrent business tale is striking and cautionary. Maddy raised millions in venture capital, established an "integrated virtual phone network" in Tanzania and Ghana, and reached toward Côte d'Ivoire and Sri Lanka before the company's collapse, which was brought on not so much by the usual local villains (corruption, red tape) as by the irrationality of one of the international agencies. Maddy's take on these problems is surprising: "given the choice, the vast majority of the people living in poverty, almost four billion, would choose to be run not by their governments and the U.N. but by a global corporation, as economic security trumps nationalism." Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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