“African Visions, African Voices”- A call to afro-optimists, by Olugbenga Adesida, Arunma Oteh

Afro-optimists, we have found yet other kindred souls!!

This very inspirational book is more an adventure with afro-optimism than a mere book.

The editors (an LSE-educated economist who’s toured Africa advising governments on economic transformation strategies, and a Harvard MBA-holder who’s served as VP at the ADB until she was recently nominated as THE 1st woman Commissioner of the Nigeria Exchange Commission, all power to her!!) … Well the two of them got together one evening and decided they wanted to do something about the ills of Africa. The result is this book: for it they called on all of Africa’s youth (under 40years of age) to submit their ideas and vision for what they thought Africa would be in 30 years down the line.

Following is an an excerpt from the Preface of the book.

A link to the full-text follows at the end of the excerpt.

Enjoy afro-optimists! Hopefully this rekindles some of the hope that we sometimes lose along the way!!

Edited by
Olugbenga Adesida
Arunma Oteh


Like many other Africans, we tend to talk about the ills of Africa. We are sure many people will understand the usual “armchair discussion and analysis” of what went wrong that we Africans usually start once a few of us get together. During one of these armchair discussions, we decided to do something about the ills of Africa.

As you can guess, our decision was not to start a revolution, join a guerrilla movement or quit our jobs and become volunteers. The simple idea, which was the origin of this book, was how could we get young Africans to begin a dialogue, to reflect together and generate ideas on the way forward for Africa. This was in December 1995 and since then we have been engaged in the exciting, challenging, demanding and rewarding activity of trying to organize a global dialogue among Africans on the future of Africa. Part of the outcome of that dialogue is this book.

This idea, we believe, is timely for the simple reason that for more than 15 years now since African countries began to implement Structural Adjustment Programs (popularly known as SAPs), African intellectual capital has been mostly invested in debating their pros and cons. Despite the fact that the majority of African countries are implementing some form of adjustment, the debate rages
on. While the world was making new discoveries in science and technology, the majority of the African intellectual elite were engaged in a debate that is best characterized as a dialogue between the deaf and the dumb. In fact, SAPs became an industry. Lectures, seminars and conferences were organized all over the world. Mind you, this is still going on! This is not to say it is not important to talk about SAPs, examine their implications and see how they can be improved or replaced. The problem was that while we were reacting to the international financial institutions no one was really busy trying to map out a future for the continent or design alternative strategies to transform Africa.

In fact, many will argue that since independence, African states have had neither a clear vision of the future nor effective strategies to transform their societies. We disagree because there were efforts such as the 1979 Monrovia Report on Africa in the year 2000 prepared by African scholars under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity, and the follow-up Lagos Plan of
Action endorsed and signed by African Heads of State in 1980.
This book is a follow-up to these illustrious efforts. It is time that we Africans take the lead in charting our own future. We need to start defining the agenda rather than reacting to ideas proposed by external actors, whether financial institutions or donors. For about four centuries, Africa seemed to be at the receiving end of ideas. Remember the Berlin Conference of 1885 to divide
Africa? How many of our forefathers (or mothers) were in attendance?

Our fear about the future is not just that Africa is facing tremendous challenges on almost all fronts. Africa can overcome these, as others have overcome similar handicaps. Our fear is centered simply on the lack of new and innovative ideas. This is the danger: the poverty of ideas and of the mind. Because it is only with ideas that we can dissolve the multiple crises facing Africa. That is why we have been very enthusiastic about this project. By all accounts, it was a major undertaking. We invited over 500 Africans from all over the world to contribute papers. In addition, we persuaded several journals like African Economy, Futurist, Futures Bulletin, Lettre d’Afrique de l’Ouest, PADIS Newsletter and several Internet newsgroups (such as Kenyanet and Naijanet) and newsletters to post an invitation to all Africans to contribute papers. The only restriction was that the author must be forty years of age or under in 1996. The challenge was that each prospective author should think the unthinkable. Think long term (30 years into the future) and strategically, and prepare a paper of about 4,000 words on their vision for the future of Africa and what strategies can be put in place to realize it. A shortened version of the book proposal and guidelines for authors can be found in the Annex. We received very positive responses and inquiries, set up an office with a secretary and recruited research assistants. Due to demand, we extended the deadline for submission of papers twice!

The value of this project goes beyond this book. As far as we know, it is the first time that such an effort, which specifically targets young Africans, has been undertaken. As we all know, Africans believe in elders. In fact, we received exciting challenges from the older generation taking us to task on the age limit. We were reminded about the fact that quite a few African military dictators took power when they were under forty, and of the damage they did to their countries and the continent. We were also told that new ideas are not limited to youth. The interesting part is that we agree with the critics. Our aim is to get the young generations of Africans to begin to think about the future of the continent.

As noted earlier, this was a major undertaking. Luckily, we found an army of supporters that assisted us. A big thank you to all because without your assistance this would not have been possible.


This book is just the beginning and we hope to continue the dialogue, by any means necessary. We invite you all to read this book and join us in this endeavor. Let us make our armchair debates more productive.

Olugbenga Adesida
Arunma Oteh

MORE AT: [http://www.nai.uu.se/publications/download.html/917106530X.pdf?id%5D

~ by afrooptimism on October 27, 2009.

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