Reminiscences of a Master Strategist

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Adedeji
Adedeji

Adebayo Adedeji, former executive secretary, Economic Commission for Africa, recounts his contributions towards the formation of ECOWAS and  Africa’s economic development

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Jun. 17, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT WAS a memorable reunion last week, when a delegation from the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, paid a courtesy visit to Adebayo Adedeji in his Ijebu-Ode country home. Adedeji, Nigeria’s former minister of economic development, was also the longest serving head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, UNECA. He also played a pivotal role in the formation of ECOWAS through the treaty of Lagos on May 28, 1975.

The ECOWAS delegation was led by Toga Gayewea McIntosh, vice president of the commission. He was accompanied by Sam Asante, a renowned political economist from Ghana, Paul Ejime, of communication directorate and Wilfred Ewaleifoh of the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA.

As the regional body prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2015, the visit was meant to show appreciation to Adedeji for his contributions towards its development.  Adedeji who played a pivotal role in the formation of ECOWAS has been described as ‘a development pioneer,’ ‘an African Cassandra’, ‘a master strategist’, and a ‘rebel technocrat’. As a minister between 1971-1975, when Nigeria was still in the throes of a civil war, Adedeji shuttled several African countries to convince them of the need to establish ECOWAS. Nigeria’s former leader General Yakubu Gowon and his Togolese counterpart Gnassingbé Eyadéma played instrumental roles in the formation of ECOWAS.

In 2006, a publication listed Adedeji as one of the world’s 50 influential thinkers on development. He later took his integration campaign to the UNECA in Addis Ababa, where he served as secretary-general and executive secretary from 1975-1991. His expertise while at the helms in UNECA  led to the creation of two more Regional Economic Communities, namely the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, COMESA in 1981 and the Economic Community of Central African States ECCAS in 1983.

Adedeji (M), McIntosh (R) and Asante (L), at Ijebu Ode
Adedeji (M), McIntosh (R) and Asante (L), at Ijebu Ode

Adedeji was also the brain behind other unique initiatives such as the Lagos Plan of Action and the Final Act of Lagos in 1980. Adedeji once again proved his mettle as a reputable scholar in 1989, when the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF, came up with the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, and foisted it on many developing nations. Together with his fellow Pan-Africanists, Adedeji developed the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programme, AAF-SAP. That feat was followed by the African Charter for Popular Participation, ACPP, in 1990, which was a legendary blue print for the continent’s home-grown development and governance paradigms.

The meeting turned out to be a nostalgic reunion as Adedeji went down memory lane to recount his experiences in the organisation. He spoke specifically about the importance of cooperation and integration as the key factor in the development of post-independence Africa. He added that cooperation and integration among nations is the only option for Africa to overcome linguistic, political and economic barriers which the continent inherited from its colonial history. Mclintosh and Asante who had worked with Adedeji at various times in the past, also had good things to say about him.

Although he lamented the fact that all the ideals of ECOWAS founding fathers have not been met, Adedeji expressed delight that citizens of the 15 – member states see themselves as people from the same community. “This is the only region in Africa where citizens can visit and stay in a country other than their own for at least 90 days without a visa because of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Rights to Residence and Establishment initiated by ECOWAS.

On his part, McIntosh, Liberia’s former foreign minister, who also has a long history of involvement in Africa’s development initiatives, said the courtesy visit was a tribute to Adedeji’s commitment and contributions to regional and continental integration.  ECOWAS is planning to produce a special documentary that will detail the evolution of ECOWAS, its mandate, achievements and challenges over the past four decades.

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