On February 14, 2013, Atlas Network officers met with the renowned Ghanaian economist Dr. George Ayittey to explore what would have the greatest long-term positive impact for liberty and prosperity in Africa. Various projects were discussed, but the discussion turned repeatedly to the lack of sound economics education, which has driven so many disastrously harmful policies.
“We talked about how textbooks are rarely available to students, as I had noted at a number of African colleges,” said Atlas Network Executive Vice President for International Programs and Geroge M. Yeager Chair for Advancing Liberty, Tom Palmer. “George explained that, when economics books were in the library, they were often either Marxist tracts or were littered with foreign examples from the U.S. or Europe to which the students could not relate their own experiences.”
Ayittey proposed to write a new textbook that would explain economics as a useful science and that would draw on familiar examples and on African history. A commitment was made to support George’s research and his travels across the continent to gather material for the book.
The result is a complete university-level textbook, Applied Economics for Africa, in which Dr. Ayittey vividly describes the deep history of market exchange in African societies and explains that a free and prosperous continent will depend, not on importing socialist ideas from abroad, but on building upon “its own indigenous heritage of participatory democracy based upon consensus, free village markets, and free enterprise.”
The result is a thorough economics textbook that has already drawn praise from top economics educators in Africa and abroad, including Nobel Laureates Vernon Smith and Thomas Sargent. Ayittey’s other books, including Africa Betrayed and Africa Unchained, have had a major impact on how people understand how Africa can move from poverty to wealth and have played a role in converting the U2 lead singer Bono to embrace entrepreneurial capitalism.
Dr. George Ayittey with Bono.
The book will be published in print and online under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, meaning that it can be reproduced by anyone if they give proper credit to the author and publisher. It is being published by Atlas Network in association with AfricanLiberty.org, a project of African Students for Liberty.
“Books for African students are scarce and few college libraries allow books to circulate, so we hope to enable them to have numerous copies of this book available for students to read,” continued Palmer. “Moreover, having it all online will enable students who can’t get copies to read them on computers, e-books, and even smartphones.” The book will also be of great interest to people studying economic development generally, regardless of where they live or study.
What Others Have Said
“The book you hold in your hands is Africa’s economic story. With the rise of what Dr. Ayittey has termed the “Cheetah Generation”—young entrepreneurs with vision to apply the principles in this book—the promise of a brighter future has never been stronger. Dr. Ayittey artfully uses examples familiar to African readers to explain with remarkable clarity the useful tools of economics to understand the complex reality around us. This is a powerful introduction to the practice of market economics. The theory is intellectually beautiful, all the more so because it has proved so useful around the world. May it prove so in Africa as well.”
—Prof. Thomas J. Sargent, W. R. Berkley Professor of Economics and Business at New York University; Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences.
“This is African economics for Africans written by an African. The principles it teaches are universal and profoundly important. What makes it special, and a winner, is simplicity and clarity of style, abundantly illustrated in African contexts. Students can relate the text and lessons to their own lives, and see how what they know and do in their economies combines with that of others to better the lives of all. Applied Economics for Africa is a winner.”
—Prof. Vernon Smith, George L. Argyros Endowed Chair in Finance and Economics, Chapman University, Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences
“The degree of economics literacy among African students, teachers, and policymakers is appallingly low. It has resulted in serious and avoidable mistakes and damage to many postcolonial African economies. Dr. George Ayittey’s Applied Economics for Africais long overdue and timely. It is a serious attempt to ratchet up economic literacy and thereby help to arrest Africa’s economic decline and remedy earlier damage caused by misguided economic policies.”
—Dr. Charles Mensa, President, Institute of Economic Affairs, Accra, Ghana
“George Ayittey’s Applied Economics for Africais essential reading for anyone interested in economic development, whether in Africa or broadly. Most importantly, Ayittey makes clear that while certain development issues are unique to particular African countries, or to Africa as a whole—because of historical accidents, specific institutions, or the legacy on colonialism—that in no way immunizes Africa from the fundamental laws of economics, which apply in Africa as elsewhere. That means, in particular, that free markets are the key to rising wealth and freedom in Africa, and the interventionism has the same counterproductive effects as elsewhere. The right policy prescription for African countries is economically simple, if politically challenging. Applied Economics for Africamakes all that and more abundantly clear while providing thoughtful and compelling analysis of Africa’s economic history and development.”
—Prof. Jeffrey Miron, Department of Economics, Harvard University Director of Economic Studies, Cato Institute