Lagos — Namibian President Hage Geingob on Saturday paid tribute to the late former Economic Commission for Africa Executive Secretary, Professor Adebayo Adedeji, by lauding the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and on-going African Union reforms.
Prof. Adedeji is known as the leading proponent of regional integration in Africa, a dream Mr. Geingob said was now coming to fruition with the signing of the continental free trade agreement by over 48 countries now.
"Adedeji was a man who was thinking way ahead of us. He was a man of action. Prof. was a very tough person. He took his job seriously and as an African he took himself seriously. If we do not take ourselves seriously as governments, as presidents, as Africa, we have a problem," said President Geingob.
He encouraged African leaders to respect term limits and leave office when defeated at the polls. Africa, Mr. Geingob said, must now also tackle constitutional change issues. He also talked about South Africa's recall system which he said was now becoming a tendency.
"We have a new Africa now. Days of the coups, days of one party state are over. We are now having elections, even if they are flawed, but still you must be elected. If not it's the Africans who decide to ostracize you," the Namibian President said.
"At least Africa has changed, if you come through a coup, it's the African Union which will say no to them," the President said as he lauded former African Union Commission Chairperson, Nkosazani Dlamini-Zuma, for introducing reforms on the non-acceptance of leaders who take power by coup d'états on the continent.
He also spoke about the on-going AU reforms that will allow Africa to be self-reliant and effective and the need for effective governance on the continent.
"We should think more of processes, systems and institutions. Everything must be full proof so that those who are defeated leave," said Mr. Geingob, adding Prof. Adedeji was always worried about African leaders who stayed in office for too long.
Speaking on behalf of Nigeria's Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Yemi Dipeolu, Special Adviser on Economic Affairs in the office of the vice president, said Prof. Adedeji was a 'towering figure of Africa's immediate post-colonial period, a public facing intellectual whose thinking and contributions continue to frame policy discourse in Nigeria, Africa and indeed globally'.
"Indeed, his greatest intellectual legacy was interrogating ideas imposed on the continent from outside," said Mr. Dipeolu, adding Africa's younger generation has much to learn from the personal attributes of Professor Adedeji.
"He was at hardworking, accessible and approachable, and very courageous. He had no patience for laziness and sloppy thinking and I know that he kept ECA officials on their toes with respect to the quality of their intellectual output. I worked at ECA long after his retirement and can attest to the fact that his legacy lives on."
Amos Sawyer, former President of Liberia, spoke about his relationship with Prof. Adedeji, lauding him for all he did for the continent's economic emancipation.
About one of their encounters, he said; "Prof knew all about me and wanted to know about my wellbeing; I wanted to know why the African Alternative to Structural Adjustment did not put African leaders on the spot, pressing them for major commitments on governance. I don't know what his specific response was, but I was very impressed with how well he understood African leaders and how to get them around to his positions."
Former Nigerian President, General Yakubu Gowon, also spoke.
"He had a vision. He knew how to key-in to the vision of other people and was blessed with an uncommon capacity to implement plans that turned dreams into reality," he said, adding Prof. Adedeji was also an exceptional intellectual and brilliant patriot who worked tirelessly for Africa.
Ibrahim Gambari, Nigeria's former Permanent Representative to the United Nations and former UN Under-Secretary General, also lauded Prof. Adedeji for the great work he did for his country Nigeria and the continent of Africa as a whole.
After a full day of discussions under the theme; Africa's development agenda: Lessons from the Adebayo Adedeji years and policy options for the 21st century, ECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe closed the symposium after sharing the organisation's five strategic areas:
· Advancing ECA's position as a premier knowledge institution that builds on its unique position and privilege to bring global solutions to the continent;
· Building sustainable development solutions to accelerate Africa's economic diversification and industrialization;
· Creating innovative solutions to finance sustainable infrastructure, human, physical and social for a transforming Africa;
· Contributing solutions to transboundary issues, with a focus on social inclusion; and
· Developing regional solutions as a contribution to global governance issues, as well as building knowledge to advocate for and manage Africa's next-generation challenges.
She said the ECA will continue to build on the blocks that were laid by Prof. Adedeji in helping Africa find solutions to its transboundary issues, among many others.