About the book
The book examines a wide spectrum of challenges that confronted African students in the aftermath of the economic reforms or structural adjustments of the 1980s, and the concomitant hardship that swept across Africa. The author uses his own real life-experiences to compare student life in the East as experienced in China, with that in the West (Germany), and adroitly analyses what these unforeseen cultural divergences implied for young Africans in search of higher education.
About the author
Abdul B. Kamara has eighteen years of policy research and development banking experience working in Africa and Asia. He holds an M.Sc. and a Ph.D. (magna cum laude), both in agricultural economics from the German Universities of Hohenheim and Goettingenrespectively. Kamara also has professional education in Regulation of Financial Markets from the London School of Economics and is a graduate of Harvard University?s Executive Education program in Public Financial Management in a Changing World. He currently serves as the African Development Bank (ADB)?s Resident Representative for Sudan, where he oversees the Bank?s entire investment portfolio, initiates new programs and leads the Bank?s policy dialogue with other donors and the Government of Sudan. Between 2007 and 2010, he served as Manager of the Bank?s Research Division, where he supervised senior development researchers conducting research that seeks to address Africa?s economic and development challenges.
Kamara also served as Senior Agricultural Economist in the ADB?s Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department between 2004 and 2007, where he was awarded the Vice Presidency Merit Award 2006 for best professionals. He also has six years of research experience with CGAIR research centres, including the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, Kenya), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, Washington, DC) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI, South African and Ghana). His research work with the CGIAR won him Germany?s Josef G. Knoll Science Award 2002, making him the 1st Sierra Leonean and 4th African laureate of that distinctive honour. Kamara has authored and co-authored books, and is well published in reputed journals including the Oxford Journal on African Economies, the Development Policy Review (UK), Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture, African Development Review (UK), Journal of Sustainable Agriculture (USA), Development Southern Africa (South Africa), and so on.
Literature provides us with a wonderful and fascinating means of learning about nations and their cultures. Given my great interest in African culture and development, and without the immediate possibility to personally experience what many report about Africa nowadays, I very keenly increase my knowledge by reading what novel African authors may offer, an exercise which became one of my favourites since the time I accidentally got in touch with Sierra Leone in Germany.
Unknown Destinations is an account of a phase in the life of Abdul Kamara, the phase in the search for higher academic realisations outside the African continent. In his book, the author corroborates facts, perceptions and opinions taken from real life-experiences in China and Germany. A good number of similar experiences have been presented in an earlier book by Osman A. Sankoh in Hybrid Eyes ? An African in Europe and a forthcoming oneby Mohamed C. Kamanda in The Visa.
The narration, introduced as a fictional conversation between two Sierra Leoneans, an educated one (Abdul Kamara), eager to transmit his experience, and a younger non-educated one (Ishmael Mansaray), avid to hear and live new experiences abroad, constitutes an informative and instructive piece of work for all.
For those non-Africans aiming to gain knowledge of the African culture, conditions and idiosyncrasy, the book leads them to these topics and stimulates further readings. Indeed, the reader is left with the wish of researching more since many aspects might appear shortly discussed in the book. For instance, whentalking about the traditional African practices and way of thinking, the interest of the Western reader may be placed on the possible changes (positive or negative) gradually brought about in the country by its own moving population -and this time not directly by the Westerners themselves - due to their increasing contact with other cultures. But that is perhaps another story.
Considering that one of the aims of the SLWS organization is to publish books for Sierra Leoneans scholars and students, the book sets out an ad-hoc platform for discussion in the classroom which could give rise to significant political and economical analysis when comparing the two socio-political systems, capitalism and communism, with each other to establish an eventual connection to the dynamics of his own country.
Throughout the book, the concern of the author?s own adequate integration in both different societies is uttered. It is a matter of survival, a continuous struggle to be accepted and feel comfortable in the new strange world, with the ever-present ultimate objective in mind: the pursuit of further education. Helps come in first place from Africans, and secondly and inexplicably for him, from the non-African female side. At some concrete passages, the author finds no explanations for the acceptance shown by Chinese or German women of African students in China and Germany respectively. My view is that normally a woman -and Chinese and German women mustn?t be the exception- appreciates, irrespectively of any possible physical attraction, a generally open-minded, cordial man offering and willing to develop a friendship or simply a non-complicated communication without barriers, at least and particularly when he has still not been touched by the bad bits of the West ?and the East.
With my passion for etymology, I paid special attention to the use of the language. I was positively impressed by the command in the use of the ?Latinised-English? or the ?Anglo-Latin?. I must recognize that I have learned through this reading the existence of a greater amount of Latin terms the English writer is prone and able to use than I in fact had knowledge of. A Spanish speaker would normally attribute them as belonging exclusively to the Spanish repertoire for being of a purely Latin origin or being presently used in our language, and would never assume they could indeed be encountered in an English lexicon.
10 February 2003