African at Heart
The Back Story
PHOTO: Sheri Speede
G. Pascal Zachary holds a chimp he helped rescue in Cameroon.
G. Pascal Zachary writes passionately about Africa, as anyone who reads this month's "Thirst for Power" will see. Zacharys interest in Africa stretches back to 1998, when, as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal , he jumped from covering technology to a stint as a foreign correspondent based in London. Fascinated by Africa, he started writing stories about African-Americans in Ghana, the battle against malaria, and the flight of nurses from the continent.
Shortly before leaving the Journal , he wrote Endless Frontier , a highly regarded biography of legendary engineer Vannevar Bush. After leaving the newspaper in 2001, Zachary began looking for stories that combined his interests in technology, economic development, and Africa. "I want to bring attention to neglected stories, especially involving older technologies taken for granted by Americans," says Zachary. Electricity caught his fancy, partly because it is the backbone of modern economies and partly because "for Africans, electricity remains an elusive technology, difficult to master."
His interest in electricity notwithstanding, Zachary's current project couldnt be more of a departure: it's a book-length memoir of his marriage. He met his Nigerian wife, Chizo Okon, in Ghana. On a trip to the zoo in the capital city of Accra in 2001, he found Chizo working as a surrogate mother to an orphaned chimpanzee. "Watching her play so confidently with the chimp, I was smitten," Zachary recalls. The couple married in 2003. Recently, an editor at Scribner's asked Zachary to write a book about their unconventional union.
Says Zachary, "Like electricity, love is an old technology that, often neglected, is not yet mastered."