Reflections on Democracy and Development: The Intellectual Legacy of Claude Ake

By the time of his sudden and untimely death in a plane crash in 1996 Claude Ake had already emerged as one of the most brilliant, original and prolific of the postindependence generation of African social scientists. A product of the best Western educational institutions, he was nevertheless firmly grounded in his African ‘terroir’, the Ogonis of southeastern Nigeria. In his last book, ‘Democracy and development in Africa’ (1996), Ake breaks new ground in terms of both the analysis of the African crisis and the solution proposed to African leaders and peoples as a radical, yet realistic way out of the crisis. In this paper, the author summarizes the main findings of Ake’s analysis of the African crisis and outlines the key elements of the new development paradigm that he proposes for Africa. Ake’s point of departure is the conclusion that political conditions in Africa are the greatest impediment to development. He argues that development is something that people must do for themselves, and that a democratic revolution is needed to beat the crisis of underdevelopment. The development strategy derived from such a people-driven democratization process should be based on a popular development strategy, self-reliance and responsibility, empowerment and confidence, and finally, self-realization.

Title: Reflections on Democracy and Development: The Intellectual Legacy of Claude Ake
Author: Martin, Guy
Year: 1998
Periodical: Ufahamu
Volume: 26
Issue: 1
Period: Winter
Pages: 102-109
Language: English
Geographic terms: Subsaharan Africa
Nigeria
About person: Claude Eleme Ake (1939-1996)
Abstract: By the time of his sudden and untimely death in a plane crash in 1996 Claude Ake had already emerged as one of the most brilliant, original and prolific of the postindependence generation of African social scientists. A product of the best Western educational institutions, he was nevertheless firmly grounded in his African ‘terroir’, the Ogonis of southeastern Nigeria. In his last book, ‘Democracy and development in Africa’ (1996), Ake breaks new ground in terms of both the analysis of the African crisis and the solution proposed to African leaders and peoples as a radical, yet realistic way out of the crisis. In this paper, the author summarizes the main findings of Ake’s analysis of the African crisis and outlines the key elements of the new development paradigm that he proposes for Africa. Ake’s point of departure is the conclusion that political conditions in Africa are the greatest impediment to development. He argues that development is something that people must do for themselves, and that a democratic revolution is needed to beat the crisis of underdevelopment. The development strategy derived from such a people-driven democratization process should be based on a popular development strategy, self-reliance and responsibility, empowerment and confidence, and finally, self-realization.