George Ayittey is a Ghanaian economist known for his argument that “Africa is poor because she is not free.” He asserts that corruption of autocrats and complacency of citizens are the bedrock problems in the majority of African states. Dr. Ayittey calls for democratic government, debt reexamination, modernized infrastructure, free market economics, and free trade to promote development. He founded the Free Africa Foundation in 1993, to serve as a catalyst for reform, and was named one of Foreign Policy’s “Top 100 Public Intellectuals" in 2008, and "Top 100 Global Thinkers" in 2009. His latest book, “Defeating Dictators”, was published in 2011. He currently teaches at American University.
In his book “Africa Unchained,”published in 2006, Ayittey first introduced his “cheetah versus hippo" analogy: it is the “cheetahs" that will ultimately save the African continent, empowering Africans to “take back" the continent. The cheetah generation is comprised of younger African college graduates and professionals who refuse to accept the status quo. They seek to implement change from the bottom up, by identifying and installing profitable businesses designed to tackle current social problems while also improving the economy. The hippo generation is of a different mindset; this older generation clings to the “colonialism-imperialism" paradigm and cannot separate itself from the idea of the all-powerful state. This is especially dangerous on a continent where “government" does not conform to conventional notions, and is often made up of “crooks…who use the machinery of the state to enrich themselves, their cronies and kinsmen and exclude everyone else."
Ayittey argues that the cheetah generation can prevail and modernize Africa, without the input of foreign governments who try to impose economic structures that are incompatible with local realities and may result in exploitation. Ayittey also founded the Free Africa Foundation to further his dream of peace and prosperity for the continent. The organization seeks to free Africans from intellectual bondage, empower them to take charge of their own destiny, and devise African-based solutions to Africa's problems. The foundation advocates and seeks establishment of these solutions to help promote and safeguard intellectual freedom, political freedom, economic freedom, and religious freedom. To this end, the Free Africa Foundation has tackled projects to restore democracy in The Gambia and Zimbabwe; examine the failure of World Bank programs in Africa; complete an ongoing book project entitled “Africa’s Development Crisis;” and restore peace and stability to Somalia, among other endeavors.