George Ayittey: Africa’s Intellectual Rebel is Gone

By: Emmanuel Acquah0 comments

After sharing the poster of his funeral arrangement and burial service, which would be on Friday, 8th April, one of our Board Members said, You will be hurt more by this. What!!! Prof is gone? When we had finalised a concept we wanted to show to him and learn from his feedback? Now, I know behind everyday reality, there is something closer to us called death. 

People who read my articles, my classical liberal book and listen to my speeches would find out Professor George Ayittey is a great influence of mine and I am happy I made this known to him while alive and for many of my articles I wrote and quoted him, he read them too. Now we all need to pay attention to the Paradox of our time “Remember to spend some time with your loved ones because they are not going to be around forever.”

Remember to say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person will grow up soon and leave your side.

Remember to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a pesewa…….Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

And always remember, “life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.”

Oh! How do we tell this story that one of Africa’s greatest is gone? This story would resonate with generations unborn. Many who knew him in person and those of us who studied under his feet afar off-his writings and speeches would for the rest of our lives deal with this heavy blow in our face. All of his books I have read, especially Africa Unchained and Applied Economics for Africa will forever be part of my top 10 books.

Read Also: Message to The West: Why You Should Not Forgive Africa of Its Debt Trespasses

My virtual encounter with Prof is an encounter with liberty. You would appreciate one of his quotes mostly cited by Franklin Cudjoe: “We struggle very hard to remove one cockroach from power and the next rat comes to do the same thing. Haba!” Apart from George Ayittey, I find no other economist who knew Africa’s past and present and spoke of the future we presently live in correctly. And there is no better way to describe him than how he described himself. According to Prof, He was “an intellectual ‘rebel,’ kicking against the ‘old colonialism-imperialism paradigm’ which has landed Africa in a conundrum.” 

Even the leftist loved him. Professor Adams Bodomo, a professor at the University of Vienna had this to say about Prof; We are/were veterans of the Okyeame Forum, the first email discussion forum by Ghanaians abroad (abroad because there was no email service in Ghana at the early 1990s).”

George Ayittey was a massive, passionate intellectual on this forum and beyond! Absolutely controversial, and for me that’s the hallmark of a fearless intellectual. Some intellectuals behave like popes, avoiding controversy and playing nice about their positions. But not George Ayittey! The economist that he was, he often backed his positions with massive amounts of statistics.

Of course, he was always to the right-wing side of world issues, disparaging progressive African intellectuals and leaders and seemingly in bed with right wing Republicans in the US, his country of residence. For this and for many other controversial stances many of us left of centre scholars hardly agreed with him.

But not agreeing with him doesn’t mean we didn’t admire his intellectual astuteness!


George, RIP!”

If Prof could speak for a minute, I am confident he would admonish us by the words of Mary Lee Hall in her famous poem Turn Again To Life: “If I should die and leave you here a while,

be not like others sore undone, who keep

long vigils by the silent dust, and weep.

For my sake – turn again to life and smile,

nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do

something to comfort weaker hearts than thine.

Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine

and I perchance may therein comfort you.”


In a soundbite from a TED Talk, Prof spoke of the Cheetah Generation as Africa’s hope and was weary of the Hippo Generation. He opined, “The Cheetah Generation is a new breed of Africans. They understand what accountability and democracy are. They’re not going to wait for government to do things for them. That’s the Cheetah Generation and Africa’s salvation rests on the backs of these cheetahs. In contrast, of course, we have the Hippo Generation. The Hippo Generation are the ruling elites. You ask them to reform the economies, they’re not going to reform it because they benefit from the rotten status quo.” This is why Prof expects pro-market Think Tanks like the Africa Centre for Entrepreneurship and Youth Empowerment (ACEYE) to bear this torch of liberty. 

Good night, Prof. As recorded in Isaiah 1:17, You thought us to “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.” By this, we have this blessed hope of seeing you again. 

From all of us at ACEYE, our thought and prayers are with his family, friends, loved ones and all his associations.

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