In Memoriam, George B. N. Ayittey (1945 – 2022)

African Liberty mourns with the rest of the freedom-loving world the passing of Dr. George B. N. Ayittey, who died in January 2022 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Dr. Ayittey distinguished himself as an Africanist per-excellence and one of the preeminent intellectuals of his generation. He belongs to a crop of African scholars who refused to neither succumb to the intimidation of dictators nor be bought to promote the state’s agenda. Dr. Ayittey’s resilience pushed him to the limelight as a leading African economist but also brought him threats. He survived several physical attacks by suspected state-sponsored assailants; his office at the American University in Washington DC was firebombed in 1998; his hotel room in Nairobi, Kenya was raised; he was jailed in Dakar, Senegal, amid other direct attempts at ensuring his critical voice was silenced.

Dr. Ayittey was a distinguished economist in residence at American University and founder and president of the Free Africa Foundation. Throughout his life, Dr. Ayittey supported the argument that “Africa is poor because she is not free.” He believed that the main cause of African poverty is not the result of the colonial past, but rather the outcome of modern oppressive native autocrats and socialist central planning policies.

Dr. Ayittey was the author of numerous op-eds for the New York TimesWashington Post, and Wall Street Journal. He wrote columns for African-owned publications, including The African LetterAfrican Continent NewsAfrica News Weekly, and African Forum. His books include Africa in Chaos, Indigenous African Institutions,  Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa Unchained, and Africa Betrayed, for which he won the 1992 H. L. Mencken Award for Best Book. His last book, Applied Economics for Africa, was supported and published by Atlas Network 2018. It is an invaluable time-lapse insight into his mind as a scholar. Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Vernon L. Smith, called it a “profoundly important” and “special” work that “illustrated [development economics] in the African context.”

He is survived by two children, three brothers, four sisters, and a legion of young African advocates of freedom—his beloved “cheetah generation.”

Africa has offered the world scholars of impeccable dignity and intellect for centuries. Dr. George B. N. Ayittey is among the many who wear the double cap of scholar-activists and inspired hundreds of thousands more to raise their voices against tyrannical regimes.


Having experienced firsthand how central planning policies destroyed Africa, Dr. Ayittey was a bastion of free-market principles, reforms, and liberal democracy across the continent. He will be sorely missed, and even in death, his works will continue to inspire young people around the world.  

– Olufemi Ogunjobi, African Students For Liberty.

I distinctly remember hosting you at my Liberty & Entrepreneurship Camp in 2012 to animate my students. You did your best for our wretched continent, and I know you have inspired a lot of people. Your good work for Africa will always remain in our hearts. May your sweet Free Market capitalist soul rest in absolute peace.

– Afrikanus Kofi Akosah Adusei, Africa Blockchain University.

I am deeply saddened by the death of Dr. Ayittey. Although I did not meet you in person, I watched your inspiring speeches online and read your great book on Applied Economics for Africa. Your legacy and aspirations will continue to guide us in our quest for liberty, peace, and prosperity in Africa. 

John Mustapha Kutiyote, Students Organization for Liberty and Entrepreneurship, South Sudan.

Dr. George Ayittey serves as an example to all Africans that standing up for the principles of liberty, even when you stand alone, can open up a world of opportunity, success, and a lifetime of fulfillment. It did not matter to Dr. Ayittey that he was, perhaps, the only radically pro-free-markets economist of his generation from Ghana – only that he stood for what was true and right. May many more follow his example.

– Martin van Staden, Free Market Foundation, South Africa.

Any African liberal and patriot worth his salt should have encountered the intellectual depth and courage of Dr. Ayittey. His fearless commentary on why Africans are poor was the gold standard of liberal African governance. If only African leaders had listened. Thank God because Dr. Ayittey’s legacy is permanently sealed in his writings – for all who want to make a change for the better to see. 

– Rejoice Ngwenya, Coalition for Market and Liberal Solutions, Zimbabwe.

Dr. George Ayittey was a passionate defender of African dignity and freedom. He was intellectually curious and courageous. He told the truth – no matter how inconvenient to the political and academic establishments. He was always willing to advise and help young scholars interested in Africa in general and economic development in particular. That, I suspect, was one of the chief joys in his life. While aware of the many political and economic tragedies that took place on the African continent in the past, he was always focused on the future and the ways of making it better and freer for the coming generations of young Africans. He was loved, admired, and will be missed.

– Marian L. Tupy, Cato Institute.

Although I never met him in person, I am one of the privileged few who had been inspired and personally mentored by him. Prof. George Ayittey personally reviewed my online course, The African Ideas of Liberty Course on Udemy, before it was published. Prof. Ayittey has passed on a torch that the Cheetah generation will continue to bear. 

Feyisade Charles Adeyemi, The Chale Institute.

The path to freedom in Africa is like walking on the edge of a razor blade. Many are scared to tread this path for fear of shedding blood, but not Prof Ayittey. He truly believed and fought for our right to act, speak and think as we want. One day, Africa shall be unchained. 

– Fri Asanga, Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation.