Samir Amin's Road Map for African Prosperity, Democracy, and Unity

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Samir Amin. Photo: Flickr-Karie-Sofi Jenssen


Samir Amin, the prominent African scholar of development economics has died in Paris on August 12, 2018. He was 86 years old. His death triggered a wave of reactions on social networks, from politicians, economists and alumni alike.

Abandoning the sacrosanct institution of private property in preached in Western orthodox "liberal" economics and envisioning another socio-economic system has been at the core of the intellectual work of Samir Amin for more than six decades.

Hailing from a society at the tip of the Nile river that stood at the crossroads of three continents --Africa, Asia and Europe-- Amin who was born in Cairo on September 3, 1931, had grasped the strengths and weaknesses of varying forms of human organization. His tool was the approach of historical materialism, to educate students about the paths that were possible before humanity.

Arguably the most influential “Third World” economist of the decolonization period, his radical thoughts inspired generations of West African students and political leaders. While teaching for two decades at the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, Amin created the first think tanks in Africa. First, the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning of Dakar (IDEP), that was joined with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; and later, he co-founded the Third World Forum in 1980, along with more than a thousand intellectuals from Africa, Asia and Latin America, with the African office in Dakar.

“Capitalism has become barbaric, directly calling for genocide. It is now more necessary than ever to substitute it to other logics of development with a superior rationality," Amin wrote in his ambitious 2004 book, “Liberal Virus: Permanent War and the Americanization of the World.” Here, he argues that the ongoing American project to dominate the world through military force has its roots in European liberalism--and European liberalism rests on a compromise between capital and labor. For Amin, European capital, or, (the center’s) exploitation of the South’s labor, or, (the periphery) is the central cause of Africa’s maldevelopment.

Amin argued that re-establishing solidarity among the people of the South, and reconstructing an internationalism that serves the interests of regions that are currently divided against each other is the only political alternative for the survival and prosperity of the peoples of the South.

The President of Senegal, Macky Sall, a former student of Amin, wrote on Twitter: "Samir Amin devoted his whole life to the fight for the dignity of Africa, to the cause of the people and the poor".

Given the breadth of Amin’s intellect, if one was not told that Amin received his doctorate in economics and statistics, one would have been forgiven for thinking of him as a historian given his mastery of world history. The scope of his knowledge comes across in the more than 30 books and thousands of journal articles and opinion pieces he authored.

Amin takes his readers through the history of Central Asia and the Middle East, through Europe and China, and the Americas and Africa, always hammering at the real meaning of modern imperialism that was being presented as “globalization.” In the last decade of his life, Samir Amin had become persuaded that the “bankruptcy of development” seemed to have consumed Africa. He focused his work on analyzing the “project for another development in a polycentric world.”

He pondered his latest reflections around the subject of "disconnection," calling for disadvantaged nations to prioritize their own economic development, away from dominant capitalistic powers. This "progressive nationalism", which includes regional co-operation as an instrument for the struggle against world monopolies, is in his view, a stage in the long transition from world capitalism to world socialism. "It is vital to initiate new forms of organizing that allow the workers and peoples of the whole planet to coordinate their strategies of struggle, to move from defensive tactics, that leave the initiative to the dominant imperialist power, to a binding offensive strategy to defend and preserve the interests of workers and peoples," he wrote on his blog in December 2017.

Those were fitting words of farewell from a great teacher.

Mamadou Niang is New York-based journalist and television producer.

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