Born in 1945, Professor George Ayittey is a Ghanaian economist, author and president of the Free Africa Foundation, which is based in Washington DC, USA. As an academic, he has taught at many institutions, and he is currently based at the American University.
Ayittey graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Ghana. He holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Western Ontario and a PhD in Economics from the University of Manitoba.
Dr. Ayittey is, perhaps, better known for his international activism than for his academic work. He has long argued that “Africa is poor because she is not free” – a message that he has championed through his speaking engagements and through the work of the Free Africa Foundation, which he founded in 1992. Ayittey has appeared on numerous international media and lectured at conferences across the United States, Europe and Africa. In 2007, he spoke at Global TED Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, where he described the emergence of a new “Cheetah Generation” of Africans who are “taking their futures into their own hands, instead of waiting for politicians to empower them.” In contrast, he referred to current and previous African elites and rulers as the “Hippo Generation” who “are lazily stuck complaining about colonialism, yet doing nothing to change the status quo.” (see video of Ayittey speaking at TED below).
Ayitteh argues that the primary cause of African poverty is not the oppression and mismanagement by colonial powers, as many have claimed. Rather, he argues, Africa has suffered mostly because of the actions of post-colonial rulers “who have sucked the economic vitality out of the people.”
What sets Ayittey apart as an African intellectual and activist has been his willingness to move beyond talking about what is wrong with Africa. He has not shied away from advocating specific remedies – specifically calling for debt forgiveness, democratic governance, modern infrastructure and free market economics. He has also called for the involvement of Africans in coming up with African solutions to African problems – embracing indigenous traditions and economic systems as uniquely suited to Africa’s challenges.
In 2008 Dr. Ayittey was listed by Foreign Policy as one of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” who “are shaping the tenor of our time”. His book, Africa Betrayed, won the H.L. Mencken Award for Best Book.
Ayittey is currently working on his next book, Defeating Dictators, expected to come out in November 2011.
Sources: Free Foundation Website, Wikipedia, Others
Selected Books by George Ayittey
- Defeating Dictators (2011)
- Indigenous African Institutions (2006)
- Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa’s Future(2004)
- Africa in Chaos: A Comparative History (1998)
- Africa Betrayed (1992)