On the loss of a great Pan-African thinker
Samir Amin in memoriam
Economist Samir Amin (1931-2018) has died. Born in Egypt, he was a radical thinker and a key advocate of Pan-Africanism and south to south cooperation. Considered one of Africa’s foremost intellectuals, his advice was sought for by many governments in the aftermath of post-independence on charting a path not only for political but importantly economic independence. Sadly, at the time of his passing this has not been achieved. In a public lecture, given at the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala in 2008, he argued that Africa was experiencing a renewed scramble for its resources.
Professor Amin’s writings and advice remains highly relevant for Africa today – that African countries need to cooperate closely amongst themselves to reverse the unequal global terms of trade and relations they are entangled in. That they need to adopt a state driven redistributive agenda to address the poverty and growing inequality in African societies. That the neoliberal policy frameworks that they have adopted will not deliver a substantive improvement in the quality of life for the majority of Africans, and will in fact make many more destitute. A Marxist intellectual, Amin called for the need of a socialist transformation of Africa.
Samir Amin was one of the founders of CODESRIA, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, to which NAI is a partner. He was CODESRIA’s first Executive Secretary from 1973 to 1975. On a personal note, I remember him from CODESRIA’s 2015 General Assembly in Dakar, where we participated under the theme of “Creating African Futures in an Era of Global Transformations”. His passing is a great loss to both Academia and Development Practice.
Head of research
The Nordic Africa Institute
A fond memory of my meeting with the man who inspired my career choice
I met Professor Samir Amin in June 2013 at the 40th anniversary of CODESRIA in Dakar, where I presented greetings from the Nordic Africa Institute in its opening session, as representative of NAI, CODESRIA’s Nordic sister organization. During the event, I went to greet Samir Amin, telling him how he had a decisive influence on my career choice, as I read him (and Johan Galtung and Immanuel Wallerstein) as a young international relations student in Helsinki in the 1980s. Scholars like him made me understand the problematic and unequal relationship between North and South, as well as issues of underdevelopment. Samir Amin was seemingly delighted when I expressed my admiration and gratitude, but also perhaps used to hearing such stories, as he must have encountered many others who were inspired by his thinking. He was still very active in that CODESRIA conference, debating particularly with emancipated (younger) women during sessions and social occasions - He was smoking small cigars and drinking strong black coffee, all the time engaged in a heated debate, so full of life and enthusiasm.
This photo (see above) was shot at this memorable occasion and it has been on my office wall ever since. I am very proud to have read and met him, one of the greatest scholars of our times. His passing-away is a big loss, but he left such a big heritage in so many of us, who have tried to follow his lessons to seek and act for more just global order.
The Nordic Africa Institute
A search on Samir Amin's name in the NAI Library catalogue renders more than 50 titles. Here are a few suggestions:
- Unequal Development: An Essay on the Social Formations of Peripheral Capitalism (1976)
- Impérialisme et sous-développement en Afrique (1988)
- La faillite du développement en Afrique et dans le tiers-monde : une analyse politique (1989)
- L'accumulation à l'échelle mondiale : critique de la théorie du sous-développement (1970)
- The people's spring : the future of the Arab revolution / Samir Amin (2012)
Since Samir Amin was also a long-time friend of NAI (the link between him and the institute goes all the way back to the time of the founding of CODESRIA in the 1970's), we also have to add to the list a publication from 1975 on ”Multinational firms in Africa”, co-published by NAI and the Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IEDP), to which Samir Amin wrote the introduction.
More titles by and on Samir Amin
Who is setting Africa's intellectual agenda?
In a recent essay published with the Codesria Bulletin, titled “Who is Setting Africa’s Intellectual Agenda”, NAI senior researcher Patience Mususa refers to Samir Amin’s work on imperial capitalism, highlighting Africa’s continued status as an extractive locale, and its incomplete project for economic independence.