George Ayittey — Foreign Aid vs. African Entrepreneurship

Economist, Ghana

Africa is poor because she is not free.

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George Ayittey—For a Freer Africa

Dr. George Ayittey PhD runs the Free Africa Foundation, which he established in 1993 in Washington, D.C., to serve as a catalyst for change in Africa. The Foundation’s motto is: “Africa is poor because she is not free.” As such, the Foundation actively promotes political, economic and intellectual freedom.

George Ayittey—Scholar and Educator

Prior to founding the Free Africa Foundation, Ayittey was a Distinguished Economist at American University, in Washington, DC, where he taught the “Development Economics” and “Africa’s Economic Crisis” courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels from 1990 to 2008. Before American University, he taught at Wayne State College in Nebraska and Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania. In recognition of his scholarship on Africa, he was made a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California in 1988 and a Bradley Resident Scholar at the Heritage Foundation in 1989.

George Ayittey—Background and Education

Ayittey was born in Ghana, West Africa. There he obtained his primary education and B.Sc. in Economics from the University of Ghana in 1966. He then left Ghana for Canada to pursue post graduate studies and secured his Ph.D. at the University of Manitoba in 1981.

George Ayittey—World Renowned Author and Advisor on Africa

Ayittey has written several acclaimed books on Africa, including Africa Betrayed (1992); The Blueprint For Ghana's Economic Recovery (1997); Africa In Chaos (1998), Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa’s Future (2005), and Indigenous African Institutions (2006). Africa Betrayed won the 1993 H.L. Mencken Award for “Best Book for 1992.” Ayittey’s forthcoming book, Defeating Dictators, is slated for publication in fall 2011.

Ayittey also has written numerous articles on Africa and the Third World, which have appeared in major publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Globe and Mail (Canada), The Times of London, USA Today, The CATO Journal, World Development, Humane Studies Review, Journal of Defense and Diplomacy, Journal of Economic Affairs, Journal of Economic Growth, The World & I, Crisis, and Foreign Trade Review. Many of his articles have been syndicated for worldwide distribution and some have been reprinted in Reader's Digest, International Herald and Tribune, Jeune Afrique Economie, and in several newspapers in Africa—recently in The Sowetan (South Africa) and Daily Observer (The Gambia). He has been cited in the American Economic Review, The New York Times, Scientific American, and by Paul Harvey, William Raspberry and others.

Ayittey has appeared frequently on several radio talk shows, and TV programs including the BBC, Voice of America, (Canada AM, CBS Nightwatch, ABC Nightline, Christian Science Monitor TV, MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, C-SPAN, and CNN.

He has testified before many U.S. Congressional committees and the Senate of Canada about the Third World Debt Crisis, Foreign Aid to Africa and South Africa. He has served as a consultant to several organizations, including the World Bank, USAID, and International Council on Metals and the Environment (ICME). In addition, he has given lectures to various organizations, institutions and universities, including the National Bar Association, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Foreign Service, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). In 2008, he was listed among the “World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy magazine and in 2009, selected among the “World’s Top 100 Global Thinkers.”

Watch George Ayittey's TED Talk: Cheetahs vs. Hippos for Africa's Future

  • George Ayittey on Hippos vs. Cheetahs

    If you look at the post-colonial [African] history, you can divide it into two classes of people. There is the Hippo Generation; the Hippo Generation are the ruling elites. They are those who have monopolized political power and they are those who are stuck in their muddy, pedagogical patch. They are ornery, pudgy, and stodgy in the sense that they can’t explain why Africa is in such a mess. They blame everybody else instead of themselves. It is always colonialism! Imperialism! And they believe that the only way you can solve the problems in Africa is by giving the state more power and more foreign aid. That’s the Hippo Generation. It’s what has dragged Africa into this particular swamp. Africa is not going to move forward with the Hippo Generation, and it is on the back of this Hippo Generation which the United Nations, the World Bank, and the IMF have been trying to hitch a ride with this same old aid driven boondoggle. And that’s why we’re not getting anywhere in Africa. By contrast we have the Cheetah Generation. The Cheetah Generation is the new and angry generation of Africans who can see that their leadership have failed them. And the Cheetah Generation are those young Africans, you may call them the restless generation. They’re not going to sit there and wait for governments to come and do things for them. As a matter of fact, they’re not going to sit there and beg for foreign aid, because they can see that every social need in Africa is a business opportunity. The Cheetah Generation is entrepreneurial. So they are going to get off and take their own initiative to solve problems in Africa. Africa’s salvation and Africa’s future rests on the backs of this Cheetah Generation. They are the young and the agile and they’re fast, and you can see a lot of them. Many, many, many African countries who are not just sitting there and waiting for governments to come and do things for them. In fact, their outlook is refreshingly different. Asia has its Tigers; Africa will have its Cheetahs.

  • George Ayittey on Freedoms

    We’re pushing not just one particular type of freedom, we’re pushing for intellectual freedom, political freedom, and economic freedom. We believe that those three types of freedom are all interrelated, you know. You can’t just push one and forget about the others.… Our motto is, Africa is poor because she is not free.

  • George Ayittey on Neocolonialism

    Every foreign entity, from our history, every foreign entity that comes to Africa goes there to pursue their own interest. Americans go there to pursue their interests. The Russians go to Africa to pursue their own interests. The Arabs came to Africa to pursue their own interest. The Chinese right now are not in Africa because they love black people so much; they are there to pursue their own interests. So we have a new form of, you know, neocolonialism.

  • George Ayittey on Foreign Aid and the Leaking Bowl

    Imagine, Africa has a begging bowl and that into this begging bowl comes… foreign aid. But this bowl has holes in it, so it leaks. There’s a massive hole here through which corruption alone cost Africa $148 billion dollars. That’s a massive leak. What should be done first – plugging the leaks or putting more aid money in? Now this is something which even an elementary school student should be able to answer. I mean, you pouring more and more and more into the bowl and then it leaks…. Doing the same thing over and over and over and again and expecting different results—makes no sense.

  • George Ayittey on Empty U.N. Resolutions

    Every decade or so, the United Nations puts together a sort of a gathering and the whole gaggle of Western donors and African government and NGOs, they gather to announce grand initiatives to pull the world’s poorest continent out of its economic miasma. The pledges are made, delegates pat themselves on the back, you know, champagne glasses click, they go home, and then everybody forgets about it. Then another five years there is another conference and another summit.

  • George Ayittey on Pity vs. Partnering

    In the past, we’ve had too much paternalism, where Christian churches want to come to Africa and somehow they see the poor as people to be pitied and people to be for handouts to be given to them. That model didn’t work. Now, the poor are not lazy; they are hardworking. And a better model would be to form partnerships with the poor and help the poor achieve their own dreams. I think that would be a better model which will serve everybody.