Many African nations are now described as 'fourth world nations', ones which essentially have no future. How could this have happened? Through the scope of the 1960's, the first decade of African independence, Peter Schwab presents a compelling and provocative answer to this question. Designing West Africa tells the story of a pivotal decade in African history, when the fate of the continent was decided. Focusing on the six most visible leaders of the period - painting detailed portraits of them both as leaders and as people - Schwab looks at how Africa served as a ground to play out larger international conflicts, namely the Cold War. He does not fall back on blaming non-African involvement for the failure to build a visible leadership for the continent; rather he critiques the African leaders themselves for their individual failings.