Lagos — A symposium in honour of the former Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, Professor Adebayo Adedeji, was held in Lagos, Nigeria, Saturday with Prof. Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, Governor of Kisumu County in Kenya, urging African intellectuals and academics to encourage African thinking on possible solutions to the continent's challenges.
Prof. Nyong'o, who delivered the keynote address at the ECA-organized symposium, lauded the late Adedeji for the great work he did for Africa, particularly for being the leading proponent of regional integration in Africa.
Prof. Adedeji, who was affectionately known as Bayo by his peers, was widely regarded as the intellectual father of African integration.
"My personal knowledge of Bayo accorded me both an opportunity and privilege," said Prof. Nyong'o. "An opportunity of learning from a giant who operated with consummate ease in the complex tableau of economic development yet had the presence of mind to take lessons from the simple. A privilege in a shared vision; both of us, possessed with an unconquerable dislike for out-of-context solutions that impoverished Africa instead of growing it."
He said Prof. Adedeji's ideas were influential and played a prominent role in shaping the ECA as a powerful think tank in the 1970s and 1980s 'as Africa faced an onslaught from the Breton Woods institutions with development paradigms that were largely oblivious to Africa's real development predicaments'.
Prof. Nyong'o narrated some of Prof. Adedeji's major achievements, which include historic economic initiatives that took place with the ECA's intervention under him.
These include the famous Lagos Plan of Action and the Final Act of Lagos of 1980, the African Charter on Popular Participation in Development and Transformation, popularly known as the Arusha Declaration of 1990, the African Alternative Framework to the Structural Adjustment Programme for socio-economic recovery and transformation (AAF-SAP) and the African Centre for Development and Strategic Studies (ACDESS), among others.
"This icon, this indomitable son of Nigeria who rose to be professor at the age of 36, proving himself an economist who was at home with his peers... spoke with the disarming confidence of knowing what he was talking about," said Prof. Nyong'o.
He said Prof. Adedeji's dominant ideology in the Lagos Plan of Action depended on how resourceful Africa used its two key assets; its people and natural resources.
"Bayo argued that Africa needed to adopt far-reaching policy choices with deeply embedded webs of social obligation to its people and reduced dependence on external nations," said the Kisumu Governor.
"It's a no-brainer why Bayo preached the gospel of self-reliance. He contended that after several centuries of colonial domination, accountability deficits by both external nations and transnational corporations were glaring, especially in the area of natural resource extraction."
He continued: "Bayo did not stop at crusading for the creation of a level playing field in the extraction of natural resources. He reasoned logically that its people who were the custodians of these resources should be the principal agents in their extraction, especially when well-trained and supported by appropriate public policy."
Prof. Nyong'o said he believed Prof. Adedeji changed the discourse on Africa's political economy and development paradigms.
"My appeal to the community of African intellectuals and academics who worked with Bayo... let us encourage African thinking on possible solutions to Africa's problems without cowing down to external partners just because they pay the piper," he said, adding; "Bayo's footsteps will not be a footnote in African development discourse. This is just the beginning."
The symposium was held under the theme; Africa's Development Agenda: Lessons from the Adebayo Adedeji Years and Policy Options for the 21st Century.