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date: 19 October 2019

(p. v) Acknowledgments

(p. v) Acknowledgments

When asked by a journalist why he writes books and even manages to get other things done along the way, Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Prize in literature simply replied: “the masochist in me, I suppose.” The editors of this two-volume Oxford Handbook of Africa and Economics have not done nearly as much writing as Soyinka. Still, they can relate to his rationale for spending many long hours and sleepless nights among papers and books, trying to bring a complex but exciting task such as this one to fruition.

No book of any scope gets done without deep involvement of a very large number of people, most of whom remain anonymous. By definition, a handbook of (nearly) encyclopedic ambitions and size such as this one necessarily required a lot of help from our friends. While we cannot recognize all of those who gave much-needed support, we wish to acknowledge the advice, encouragements, and guidance of a number of very special people and institutions.

The idea for this book arose out of a couple of firm convictions. The first was that despite being one of the most intellectually challenging regions in the world it was still under-researched—or some of the cutting-edge work done about Africa was not sufficiently featured in the most prestigious reference books at major university presses. The second was that, despite all the media coverage of the continent (perhaps because of it), Africa’s contribution to economic knowledge had not been told. What was missing and might be of enduring value, we thought, was a kaleidoscopic presentation of some of the various ways in which economic science has tried to explain the African condition, and how the continent’s peculiarities had shaped the field of economics.

Strangely, our friends Alexie Tcheuyap, Cilas Kemedjio, and Ambroise Kom, who are professors of comparative literature and philosophy—not economics—were the first to enthusiastically embrace the idea of a handbook, and to suggest the kind of intellectual strategy that could underline it and make it unique. We are grateful to their wonderful intuition and pertinent advice, which gave us the energy and confidence to develop the initial ideas into a proposal.

Hippolyte Fofack, Jean-Claude Tchatchouang, Eugène Ebodé, Hervé Assah, Rémi Kini, and Geremie Sawadogo were cheerleaders from day one, and constantly reminded us why it was intellectually and symbolically important that the first handbook on Africa and economics ever produced by Oxford University Press in its 600 years of history be comprehensive and diverse, and reflect perspectives that are not always given the visibility they deserve.

Paul Collier’s searching criticisms of the initial proposal forced us to clarify our argument and approach. His generous advice and marginalia at each step of the process provided a great sense of direction that helped us avoid many pitfalls.

Managing top-notch researchers to deliver on a complex project in a very short period of time is a bit like herding cats. Fortunately, we had a blueprint on how to proceed with (p. vi) minimum risks of slippage on the timetable and budget. David Malone, with whom we worked on a previous Oxford University Press project, offered strategic and tactical advice from the very beginning of the process. We were fortunate to tap into his wisdom and expertise.

Elizabeth Asiedu and Mustapha Nabli could easily have been co-editors of this Handbook. Their extraordinary generosity and commitment make it difficult to express adequately the critical role these friends have played in the development and completion of this project. With her well-known toughness and brilliance, Asiedu single-handedly brought to the team many high-flying researchers who rarely have time for such intellectual endeavors. Among other things, she convinced several of her colleagues from the Association for the Advancement of African Women Economists (AAAWE) to lend support to the Handbook, bringing unique perspectives to economic topics where their voices are not often heard.

Despite a schedule as busy as that of heads of state, Nabli provided detailed and sharp comments on various drafts of the main chapters of the Handbook and generously opened his rich Rolodex to help us recruit contributors. Thanks to his stellar reputation across the entire Arab world, we were able to attract many of the top researchers in his network of friends, former colleagues, and students to this task. One of them is Hakim Ben Hammouda, who co-wrote two chapters with Nabli while working as Finance Minister in the transition government of Tunisia at the most difficult period of his country’s history. We thank him for that.

Fabien Eboussi Boulaga’s and Valentin-Yves Mudimbe’s amazing analytical abilities, and their sustaining goodwill and humor, made the preparation of this Handbook an exciting task carried out with some of the most fertile minds in the world. Prior to their intellectual work in the realm of philosophy, Africa has suffered from the lack of sophisticated scholarly attention. This Handbook, in many ways, was produced out of our profound regard for their pioneering work on the epistemology and ontology of the continent.

Joseph Stiglitz and Roger Myerson not only contributed chapters to the Handbook but provided excellent advice and suggestions on its main themes. Stiglitz, whose theoretical work on a wide range of issues addressed in this Handbook, deserves a special expression of gratitude for his friendship and mentorship. Olivier Blanchard, Jeffrey Sachs, Richard Joseph, Xiaobo Zhang, and Akbar Noman, colleagues and kindred spirits with whom we have interacted about various economic topics, also helped shape this book by recommending potential contributors and convincing them to be part of the journey.

A team of 137 contributors from dozens of countries in all continents worked hard to complete this two-volume Handbook in record time. Many of them command great attention because of their reputation, and normally would only be contacted through highly paid agents. Yet, they all agreed to work on this project without requesting honorarium or fees, with the humility which is the other side of true greatness. Our debt to all the colleagues and friends who accompanied us on this project is impossible to repay, or even to acknowledge appropriately.

One of the many advantages of being an economist in the World Bank research department was the bountiful advice that one’s colleagues provide, even unwittingly. In addition to Kaushik Basu’s early and strong endorsement of the Handbook project (and his stunning humility to contribute a chapter himself, with Alaka Basu), we benefitted from thoughtful discussions of various topics studied in this Handbook with Shanta Devarajan, Marcelo Giugale, Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, Luis Serven, Aart Kraay, and Bertrand Badre.

(p. vii) The positive response received from Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank Group President, eliminated the bureaucratic impulses, processes, and red tape that almost always surround such a high-visibility project. A true intellectual himself, Kim shielded the Handbook project from the politically correct: in just one cryptic email message to his senior staff, he saluted the initiative for the Handbook and also gave all the intellectual freedom and latitude to explore issues and policies without ever wondering whether the contributors to the project shared “official” World Bank views on any topic under study.

As President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka was not simply a gorgeous mind with genuine commitment to the economic development of the African continent and an uncanny ability to seize new ideas, he was the first to spontaneously offer intellectual and financial support for the preparation of this Handbook. It did not occur to him that he might have been subsidizing a “World Bank” initiative, He simply asked what kind of help was needed and made it available, never expecting anything in return except a compelling volume. A true gentleman. We hope he will not be disappointed with the final outcome.

Finn Tarp, Director of UNU-WIDER, whose intellectual engagement with Africa dates back decades, had a similar attitude, providing funding for the project and contributing himself (with Tony Addison and Saurabh Singhal) a seminal piece on the economics of development aid. Mthuli Ncube and Ernest Aryeetey, two of the most prominent and busiest African economists, also strongly supported this project and always found the time to meet the deadlines—even when fighting jet lag and multiple other requests. We are grateful for their help.

Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, an entrepreneur and investor who promised his Angolan grandmother to make a difference for the African continent, has been an unusual philanthropist in supporting young African economists and cutting-edge research and innovation. This project benefited from his many ideas and help.

Jiayi Zou and Yingming Yang of the ministry of Finance in China, together with the leadership and the students of the National School of Development at Peking University, offered substantial financial and logistical help to organize an authors’ workshop in Beijing for the discussion of draft chapters. Xiaobo Zhang organized an unforgettable field visit that allowed many participants to have a first-hand look at concrete examples of entrepreneurship and industrialization in a dynamically growing economy. Xi Chen, Irene Jing Lu, Hongchun Zhao, and Premi Rathan Raj devoted time and energy to coordinate all events at every single phase of the project. We thank them for their generosity and abnegation.

Madeleine Velguth and Gertrud G. Champe, who are not economists, heroically translated a few chapters, overcoming the obstacles of technical jargon to produce what we hope are polished and highly readable texts. Wei Guo was a creative and energetic research assistant, always coming up with several possible solutions to each problem. Togolese artist Akué Adoboé graciously offered pictures of his paintings for the covers of the two volumes. We are deeply appreciative of such help.

The team at Oxford University Press, especially Adam Swallow, Michael Dela Cruz, Aimee Wright, Sarah Kain, and Sophie Song, patiently and effectively guided us through the process. Long after our own work was done, they were (and are) still spending time and energy to the Handbook project.

Last but not least, our families tolerated our often long absences—including when we were physically at home but locked in libraries. We would like to thank Chen Yunying, Kephren and Maélys, for being our inspiration. (p. viii)