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Vol. 73/No. 10      March 16, 2009

Havana book panel discusses
transformation of Africa, world
(front page)
HAVANA—“The image commonly painted of Africa is one of hunger and corruption, disease, and dictatorships. That makes the publication of this book so welcome,” said Teresa Efua Asangono, Equatorial Guinea’s ambassador to Cuba. She was speaking at a February 26 meeting at the University of Havana to present Capitalism and the Transformation of Africa: Reports from Equatorial Guinea. The book, by Mary-Alice Waters and Martín Koppel, was recently published by Pathfinder Press in both English and Spanish.

The meeting, held at the student center and organized by the Federation of University Students, was hosted by María del Carmen Maseda, director of the Amílcar Cabral African Studies program at the university. Among the 40 people present were two dozen Equatorial Guinean students. Some 150 youth from that Central African country are currently studying in Cuba.

On February 19 Capitalism and the Transformation of Africa was presented at the Havana International Book Fair. On the speakers’ platform, as in the university meeting, were ambassador Efua; Víctor Dreke, until recently Cuba’s ambassador to Equatorial Guinea; and Mary-Alice Waters, coauthor of the book and president of Pathfinder. The meeting was chaired by Iraida Aguirrechu, current political affairs editor at Editora Política, the publishing house of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

The following week 80 people attended a presentation of this and other recently published Pathfinder titles at a meeting in Gines, a town 30 miles southeast of Havana. It was sponsored by the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution.

In the audience at the book fair presentation were several Cubans with a long record of internationalist work in Africa. They included Ulises Estrada, who shouldered major responsibility for logistics and security in Cuba’s internationalist missions in Africa and Latin America in the 1960s; Alberto Granado, director of Casa de Africa (Africa House), a research center and museum; Francisco Martínez Bulnes, director of the Africa department at the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP); and Pablo Hernández, representative for Africa of the Cuban pharmaceutical company Biofam. Also in attendance were half a dozen students from So Tomé and Príncipe—an African nation in the Gulf of Guinea—who are going to school in Cuba.  
Fight to transform world
Capitalism and the Transformation of Africa was written, Waters explained, because “we wanted to share with others—above all working people in the United States and young people whose minds are open to the world—the education we had received from the people of Equatorial Guinea during the two trips we made there in 2005 and 2008. We wanted to help our readers understand the world in which we live today, the world we refuse to accept simply as it is, the world we fight to transform” in the interests of the vast majority of humanity. (See accompanying excerpts from the remarks by Waters, Efua, and Dreke.)

Waters said the book puts the changing economic and class relations in Equatorial Guinea today in historical perspective. Equally important, she noted, this is a book “about the Cuban revolution and Cuba’s place in Africa and in the world. Without seeing this, it would be much more difficult to be confident of the road forward in Africa—or anywhere else in the world. The practical example of Cuba’s socialist revolution is seen in the hand of proletarian solidarity extended to the people of Equatorial Guinea by 230 Cuban internationalists,” among them medical personnel, teachers, and electrical workers.

Efua noted that the book portrays the progress being made by the people of Equatorial Guinea today as they confront the colonial legacy of “lack of road infrastructure, universities, primary schools and literacy, electrification, hospitals, access to clean water, qualified personnel,” and other foundations for progress. She saluted the “solidarity always displayed by Cuba on the African continent,” including with her own country.  
Cuba’s solidarity with Africa
“Before Equatorial Guinea had oil, when it was one of the most underdeveloped countries of the African continent, we Cubans were friends of the Equatorial Guineans,” said Dreke. Cuba’s hand of friendship goes back more than four decades, when Equatorial Guinea won its independence from Spain, Dreke said. The historic ties between Cuba and what is now Equatorial Guinea go back even further—to the 1860s, when Cuban independence fighters in the first war against Spanish rule were deported to Fernando Poo, as the island of Bioko, today part of Equatorial Guinea, was known.

Dreke detailed some of the many projects the Equatorial Guinean and Cuban governments have embarked on together since 2000. These range from a medical cooperation effort that has expanded access to health care throughout the country, including the most remote regions, and the training of Guinean youth as doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel; to programs advancing education, electrification, and other basic needs.

“I was very pleased to learn about this book,” said Pedro Elo Obama in an interview after the meeting at the University of Havana. “There are few books about Equatorial Guinea, and hardly any that don’t approach our country as a wreck.”

Elo was one of the many Guinean students who snapped up Pathfinder books on a range of political subjects that were on sale at the book fair and at the University of Havana presentation. Altogether more than 300 copies of Capitalism and the Transformation of Africa in Spanish and English were sold at the Havana book fair and other presentations or donated to the national, provincial, and university libraries across the island.

Jonathan Silberman and Omari Musa participated in the reporting trips to Equatorial Guinea in 2005 and 2008, respectively, both of which led to the publication of Capitalism and the Transformation of Africa.
Related articles:
Book on Africa helps you see yourself ‘as citizen of world and world history’  
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