Sunday, 1 February 2015

African Development in the 21st Century

African Development in the 21st Century: A scholar’s theories and contributions

This book review was published by Nigerian Tribune Newspaper on 29 January, 2015

The diverse contributions of Professor Adebayo Adedeji as a scholar, practitioner, and international civil servant to Africa’s development perspectives and processes are the subject matter of this recently released book, with contributions from mostly African scholars, policy-makers, former and current senior officials of the United Nations, leaders of civil society organisations and think-tank. Two common threads emerge from the diverse authors. First is the distilling of the contributions of Adedeji during his distinguished career of four decades and across national, continental and international levels. Second is the critical diagnosis of Africa’s past challenges, present trends, and future prospects.

The book, with nine chapters, is divided into four thematic parts, which contextualise Adedeji’s rich contributions to Africa’s economic development process drawing from leading documents especially the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA) and the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programmes for Socio-Economic Recovery and Transformation (AAF-SAP). These two documents are as relevant today as they were three decades ago when they were first developed. Part 1 presents reflections on the policies and strategies for Africa’s development since 1976. In this context, Adedeji used his pivotal position as head of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to build a distinctive African voice on developmental issues of great significance to the continent by strengthening the research capability, policy advocacy, and human capacity of the institution; and by serving as trusted adviser to African leaders on economic issues. Part two focuses on Adedeji’s efforts to use regional integration and cooperation to overcome the challenges of small market sizes and land-locked countries, economies of scale and scope and galvanize the continent’s economic development into a vibrant and globally competitive African economy. Part three is dedicated to examining the institutional deficits that continued to plague Africa’s development. Part 4 presents in-depth analyses of conflicts and development in Africa.

For those familiar with the development debate of the 1980s and 1990s between the World Bank and UNECA, much of the materials in this book are available in various publications of the two institutions. There are also a lot of repetitive materials across chapters in the book. However, I found fresh insights, ideas and interpretations in the chapters by four authors: Richard Jolly, Ali Ali, Adekeye Adebajo, and Otobo. The remaining five chapters essentially revolve around the insights and ideas provided by what I will call the four core chapters.

From my perspective, the leading chapter after the introductory chapter should have been Chapter four by Adekeye Adebajo on “A Tale of Two Prophets: Jean Monnet and Adebayo Adedeji.” This chapter provides a biographical sketch of Adedeji as an erudite scholar, a foremost development planner and practitioner, and the father of African integration. His vision for African integration was initially outlined in an article on “Prospects for Regional Economic Integration in West Africa,” published in 1970 in the Journal of Modern African Studies. Turning his scholarly insights into practice, Adedeji championed regional integration as an instrument for promoting peace and socio-economic development in Africa. As a Minister of Economic Development, he was instrumental in the creation in 1975 of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). At UNECA, he facilitated the creation of Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in 1981 and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in 1983. His far-sighted vision and skillful efforts to transform the UNECA into a Pan-African platform to promote economic integration across Africa is comparable to Europe’s political visionary—Jean Monnet who was very instrumental as a French technocrat in the establishment of the European Community.

Most readers of this book, edited by Amos Sawyer, Afeikhena Jerome and Ejeviome Eloho Otobo, will agree with the following statement in the Foreword by President Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former President of Mozambique: “This book, written to honour Adebayo Adedeji, the intellectual leader of Africa’s quest for home-grown approaches to development and good governance, sheds light on many of the difficult policy challenges that Adedeji tackled during his career. His capacity and commitment to speak for Africa and on African issues remains unmatched.

•Dr Oshikoya is an economist and public affairs analyst.