Monday, 2 March 2015

Adebayo Adedeji: A Distinguished Scholar and Public Servant

By Temitope Oshikoya

This article has been published by ThisDay  on 01 March 25
“This book, written to honor 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, especially when he was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). He has been a brilliant, confident and tenacious proponent of African development.”

–– Joaquim Alberto Chissano, Former President of Mozambique, in a Foreword to African Development in the 21st Century: Adebayo Adedeji’s theories and contributions.

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 edited by Amos Sawyer, Afeikhena Jerome and Ejeviome Eloho Otobo. The 216-page book, published by Africa World Press, has contributions from mostly African scholars, policy-makers, former and current senior officials of the United Nations, leaders of civil society organizations and think-thanks. 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 contextualize 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. In both the LPA and AAF-SAP, Adedeji has provided the necessary framework for scholars and practitioners in academia, the public sector, the private sector, international institutions and civil society organizations to build upon and chart out a new path for Africa’s sustainable and shared prosperity.

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 2 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 3 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 4 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. A product of universities of Leicester, Harvard, and London, Adedeji became a full Professor of Economics and Public Administration at the age of 36. Four years later at the age of 40, in 1971, he was appointed Nigeria’s Minister of Economic Reconstruction and Development under the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon. His Ministry would oversee the post-war, peace-building and reconstruction efforts. Several of the country’s infrastructure base, dual carriageways, flyovers and electricity pylons were conceived under successive five-year national development plans crafted by Adedeji and his cabinet colleagues.
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 worked with General Gowon to convince other 15 West African Heads of States to create Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He carried this mission to the UNECA when he was appointed in 1975 to lead the institution and 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. Yousif Suliman in Chapter 5 on “African Integration and Development” further elucidates Adedeji’s vision and framework for regional integration; the record of achievements and shortcomings of the various regional economic communities; and the way forward for revitalizing the regional integration process.

Richard Jolly, a former Deputy Executive Secretary of UNICEF when Adedeji was Executive Secretary of UNECA, draws on his personal experiences and interactions with Professor Adedeji, which illuminates the points in his chapter on “Contemporary Perspectives on the LPA and Structural Adjustment in the 1980s.” He recalls how Adedeji was aware of the “battles for the African mind.” In challenging the perspectives of the Washington Consensus, “Adedeji was at his best and his most loyal to Africa.” In spite of political battering and attacks from the Breton Wood Institutions, “Adedeji stood up for Africa and presented an authentic African vision of independent economic advancement.”
Although Adedeji did not initially succeed in many of these battles, over time some of the priorities for which he argued have been mainstreamed and accepted. This is the main theme of Ali Abdel Gadir Ali’s contribution on “The Rediscovery of the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programmes,” which contextualized later policy developments and situated them with Adedeji’s foresights. Ali notes that following the failure of SAPs to achieve their growth objectives, most of the current ideas on promoting development in Africa involve the rediscovery of ideas that had been previously articulated by African policy makers and scholars; foremost among which is Adedeji. In response to and in an attempt to accommodate the issues earlier raised in AAFSAP, Ali traces the evolution of international development partners’ policy engagement with Africa starting with the Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF), Poverty Reduction Strategies Papers (PRSP), and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Jerome<> in Chapter 8 further extend this evolution to include the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs), New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), the Inclusive Growth Agenda and the Developmental State mantra, which gained firmer ground after the 2008 global financial crisis.

More tellingly, Adedeji’s positions and ‘lost decades’ proposition have been further validated by the Commission for Africa, whose 2005 Report (p.30) notes that “decades in which Asia was investing, the 1970s and 1980s, were the years of crisis when African governments slashing the budgets of both clinics and schools at the behest of the IMF.  Evidence shows that IMF and the World Bank economic policy in the 1980s and early 1990s took little account of how these policies would potentially impact on the poor in Africa.” In Chapter 3, Ademola Ariyo and Babajide Fowowe provided statistical and empirical analysis that corroborated these policy insights and concluded that SAPs have not been able to structurally transform African economies and production systems.

Ejeviome Eloho Otobo’s Chapter 6 on “African Countries: Three Deficits and Three Futures” builds on Adedeji’s work in the area of scenario analysis for the continent. While acknowledging recent improvements in economic performance in Africa, Otobo highlights the structural constraints impeding Africa’s long-term development prospects as stability deficit, the organizational deficits, and the scientific deficits. The stability deficits are manifested in coups, conflicts and crimes which together prevent development from taking root. In Chapter 9, James Katorobo provides a detailed analysis of the ten root causes of conflicts in Africa and examined the framework that Adedeji had provided for managing and controlling conflicts.
The organizational deficits encapsulate institutional weaknesses and capacity deficiencies for economic management and political governance. These deficiencies have hampered the public sector in its role of delivering on the basic social contract between government and its people in areas such as security, safety, social services, property and contract rights, markets and competition regulation. As a result, in conflict-affected countries, dependency on foreign technical assistance and aids constitute over 90% share of national budget. Building and strengthening of the capacity of African institutions to achieve accelerated development has been central to Adedeji’s work; Hesphina Rukato examines this aspect in detail in Chapter 7.

The third deficit identified by Otobo is the scientific and technological deficit. Scientific and technological progress has enabled other societies to transform from agricultural age through industrial age and now to knowledge-based information age. African economies remain natural resources based partly because of lack of adaptation through inventions, innovation and imitation. According to Otobo, African countries face three distinct futures depending on their position on the combination of political stability, organizational competence, and technological prowess tripod. At the upper-end will be a handful of countries with the attributes to be competitive both continentally and globally. At the middle will be countries that will rely more cooperation to forge ahead, while at the lower end are countries bedeviled by conflicts and not able to make much headway.
As an economist and scholar, Adedeji espouses development of Africans for Africans and by Africans. He favors using superior arguments to make his points rather than condescension and resort to calling others pseudo-intellectuals. As a practitioner, he has fought with passion and rigor for ‘adjustment with a human face’, and against austerity measures and the misery that the merchants of misery are now inflicting on all of us, except the ultra-rich oligarchs. Without parading himself with meaningless self-serving titles, his record as a Minister between 1971 and 1975 will be viewed as a golden era for Nigeria’s economic management with relatively stable Naira exchange rate, low inflation rate, and respectable foreign reserves to GDP ratio. His era witnessed orderly crafting and implementation of development plans and execution of infrastructure development across the country. He practiced indigenization unlike those who pay lip service to developing local content and could not find capable Nigerian and African firms to undertake advisory services for the public sector except using non-indigenous and non-local firms for such services.

As an international civil servant, he has been insistent on the development and implementation of African-centered development policies and programs at a time when the Washington Consensus was the dominant paradigm for development imposed on African countries. This is in sharp contrast to the economic refugees of more than two decades at Breton Wood institutions, who like to parade themselves as reformers, but are now worse than the un-reformables.  He believes in developing the capacity of Africans to master development process, unlike those who are more in tune with outsourcing thought leadership on the economy to non-Africans. His constituency is Africa unlike those more interested in playing to the gallery of the international development community. As a diplomat, Professor Adebayo Adedeji is in the league of Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth; both made Nigeria and Africa proud at the continental and global scenes. To reiterate the words of President Chissano, this book is indeed a fitting tribute to a man of grand stature and a role model for many yet to come.
–– Oshikoya, an economist, chartered banker, and public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos