Notable Life Events

  • Founder of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington, DC
  • Scholar affiliated with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Hoover Institution, and The Independent Institute
  • Ph.D in Economics from University of Manitoba
  • Taught at Wayne State College, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, and American University
  • Author of various books including Africa Unchained: the blueprint for development
  • In 2006 was made Nkosuohene (chief) of Teacher Mante
  • Victim of a Kenyan Security Force raid and jailed in Senegal for conducting research
  • Had office firebombed at American University in 1999


Indigenous African Institutions of 1991 was Ayittey’s first published book. The book details how indigenous African societies work. These systems were not destroyed by colonialism, in fact, in some cases, the colonial system rejuvenated the indigenous systems. The current one-party military dictatorships were detrimental to the indigenous institutions.

Africa Betrayed in 1992 illustrates how despots have halted Africa’s progress. Thirty years of independence has not led to economic prosperity. In the book, he goes as far as to say that the second wave of freedom struggles are starting to unseat the kleptocrats.

Ayittey followed up his work in 1998 with Africa in Chaos. The book is a deep dive into various problems in Africa along with solutions. In this book, he calls on African intellectuals to take up the fight against tyranny.

The idea of hippos vs cheetahs was first introduced in Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Development in 2005. A cheetah is a young African leader that uses free market solution to improve the life of his people. A hippo is an old-style African leader that blames his failure on colonialism. The book explains various examples of cheetah leadership the reader apply in their own country.

Defeating Dictators: Fighting Tyrants in Africa and Around the World published in 2011 takes on the idea that Africa is predisposed to despotism. The book illustrates how the people could stop following incompetent chiefs in pre-colonial Africa. He also tells the story of many pro-democracy leaders and movements. He equates the struggles of Africa with other developing nations giving a global picture of the fight against oppression.

Proper African Leadership

Ayittey believes that Africa is suffering from economic stagnation because she has abandoned her indigenous culture for imported economic systems and charity. Africa is now dependent on foreign aid instead. The situation in Africa will not improve until the continent builds its workforce, infrastructure, and commercial systems.

There are two types of leaders in Ayittey’s estimation. Cheetahs young, nimble leaders ready to adapt and change to a fast-paced world. The second type is Hippos sluggishly clinging to post-colonial patronage systems. When they get in trouble, they blame colonialism instead of building solutions based on Africa’s past successes.

Confederations are the traditional type of African government. Even the largest empires had most of the power dispersed at the local level. The African cultures that had chiefs surrounded their chiefs with councils to ensure proper decision making. If the chief stopped listening to his people, they would leave and follow another chief. Some cultures, such as the Igbo, did not have chiefs. Ultimately, Africans are skeptical of strong centralized powers.

There are very few representative democracies in Africa today. As of 2011, there were 15 democracies out of the 54 countries in Africa. Only ten economies can be considered successes and less than ten have free media. Ayittey believes that accepting foreign government and economic system the leaders barely understood led to the failure of Africa.

Three sectors separate African economies, modern, informal, and traditional. Corrupt governments of Africa run the modern sector. The informal and traditional sectors are where average people engage in commerce. If aid goes to Africa, it should be targeted in the traditional and informal sectors.

Foreign Aid vs. Fiscal Responsibility

In numerous talks, Ayittey commends efforts by world leaders to raise money for Africa. He mentions aid packages ranging from $30 – $50 billion and compares this to the amount of money spent by irresponsible governments. Corruption costs Africa $148 billion; Capital flight cost $80 billion. Finally, the most outrageous number is $20 billion on imported food. In the 1960’s Africa had food surpluses. Fiscal responsibility could create far more wealth than additional aid.

Loans from IMF and Worldbank always come with stipulations. These stipulations restrain Africa’s ability to create unique solutions to her problems.

Chinese Development in Africa

Many African leaders have allied with China under the false assumption that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Africa has been fighting colonialism from Western powers for centuries. Because China opposes the West for economic dominance, African leaders think partnering with China is advantageous.

When China partners with Africa the deal does not have numerous stipulations on how the country can conduct political or economic affairs. However, the deals are done on barter terms. For example in Nigeria, China agreed to repair $5 billion in railway repairs for access to four oil plots. China built presidential palaces in Zimbabwe and Sudan for resources. In Guinea and Congo China built a soccer stadium. China brings their workforce to these efforts, preventing the cultivation of a local workforce and a reduction in unemployment. Many of these Chinese workers participate in the informal economy selling discount products from China after work. The activity of China in the informal sector reduces African participation.

Socialism in Africa

Socialism means what is mine is mine, but what is yours we share:

Anonymous cabinet minister from Zimbabwe according to Dr. Ayittey

Ayittey uses the above quote in numerous talks when explaining how socialism failed in Africa. After the independence movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The revolutionary leaders borrowed socialism from Asia and Eastern Europe and did not modify it for the African situation. African socialism created a massive and wasteful bureaucracy that creates the opportunity for politicians to be corrupt.

To illustrate how socialism failed, Ayittey uses his home country of Ghana. Nkrumah took office in 1960 and implemented socialism. Socialism was always a strong force in Ghana even after the end of Nkrumah’s administration. In the 1980’s the price of cocoa dramatically increased. However, the only buyer allowed by law was a national co-op that would only by 20% of the world market price. The growers realizing they were being taken advantage of began to smuggle their product to neighboring Ivory Coast. To stop the smuggling the government had to impose the death penalty on violators.

Ghana also attempted to set the price for produce instead of allowing for negotiations at the market as had been done in local markets for centuries. Farmers refused to sell at the government declared price and create non-government affiliated markets. The government had to bomb these markets and jail farmers. The jailing of farmers was so vast that there were not enough farmers left to supply the prisons with food. Thirty-one farmers died while in jail.

Traditional African Capitalism

It is essential for people to understand the difference between not having an economic system and having a different economic system. Africans had money; they used gold and salt to barter. They had democracy. People would appoint a chief and chose to stop following him if he could not rule. They also had free markets. People would gather and negotiate prices to sell their produce. Therefore the ideas of democracy, free markets, and capitalism are not foreign to Africa. Africa had great free market empires such as Mali, Ghana, Songhai, and Zimbabwe. In these empires, the means of production were owned privately except for land. Also, these empires functioned as loose confederacies that had most of the power at the local level.

Historically, the best time for capitalism in Africa was the time after slavery and before decolonization, 1880 to 1960. The slave trade had ended, which was the primary cause of inter-tribal war, and the colonial governments were responsible for massive infrastructure spending. These local and traditional economies were allowed to develop without interference from the colonial powers.

What are African Solutions

Indigenous African systems serve as the basis for African solutions. Africans should concentrate on building the informal and traditional economies. Once the spirit of capitalism engulfs the continent, other reforms can take place. Currently and historically capitalism has been seen as connected to colonialism. Capitalism is not a foreign concept and is integral to Africa’s past and future.

Non-African countries can support Africa by not backing leaders but institutions. Institutions will last longer than leaders. The organizations that are vital to the development of Africa are independent and neutral judiciary, media, central bank, and security force. These institutions will enforce the rule of law, facilitate political discourse, and encourage economic self-improvement.

Private citizens, especially black Americans are vitally important also. Black leaders must speak out against oppression if it comes from blacks or whites. Idi Amin killed on average 150 people a day, and there was no outrage overseas. The Rwandan government controlled by the Hutus enforced an apartheid system on the Tutsi. There was no outcry until the situation turned violent. People are scared of promoting paternalism and colonization when speaking out against African leaders. Concerned citizens must remember their voices are vital and instrumental in improving the system.

Africans must work to reduce tribalism. It must be a requirement that a leader must win twenty percent of the vote from an ethnic group different than his own. The need to get votes from other cultures will encourage bridge building.

Read Entire Series HERE


  1. Description and Excerpt of Indigenous African Institutions found on com
  2. Description of Africa Betrayed found on
  3. Description of Africa Betrayed found of
  4. Description and Excerpt of Africa in Chaos found on
  5. Description and Excerpt of Africa Unchained: the blueprint for development found on
  6. Description and Excerpt of Defeating Dictators: Fighting Tyrants in Africa and Around the World found on
  7. YouTube Playlist titled SD George Ayittey

  8. George Ayittey: Cheetahs vs. Hippos for Africa’s future 08-01-2007 on TED
  9. George Ayittey: The solutions to Africa’s problems lie in Africa – IQ2 debates 11-29-2011 on iqsquared
  10. George Ayittey: The Failure of African Socialism 01-07-2013 on
  11. George B. N. Ayittey | The New Path for Africa: Establishing Free-Market Societies 01-20-2015 on Independent Institute
  12. Pro. George Ayitteh speaks about democracy and dictatorship on ESAT 11-11-11 on Bette Mera
  13. ESAT – Professor George Ayittey (Part II) 11-26-2011 on Bette Merra
  14. George Ayittey, Economist, On Nigeria Elections And Africa 03-01-2015 on SaharaTV
  15. Independent Institute Articles

  16. Disband the African Union 07-12-2016
  17. Nelson Mandela’s Unfinished Business 02-11-2015
  18. A Human Rights Toast for an African Tyrant 08-08-2012
  19. Indigenous African Free-Market Liberalism 08-24-2011
  20. The Worst of the Worst 06-21-2010
  21. Generation Abdulmutallab 01-15-2010
  22. Misleading Africa 03-01-2009