Africa, relative to all the other continents, is not a free place. Only a handful of nations can boast about having a marginally functioning democracy, and even then, those countries’ civil services are often extremely corrupt. Whereas Americans, for example, worry about expensive compulsory medical insurance, Africans often have to worry about whether the drunken cop with an AK-46 is going to randomly unload his magazine into their family, or whether the government is going to expropriate their property overnight without any due process. Indeed, the uncertainty and unpredictability of Africa itself is emotionally oppressive; and I can say this from the relatively privileged position of living in South Africa.
It is because of all this that it is important to give credit where credit is due. The African continent does not have a lively classically liberal or libertarian civil society scene such as that of North America and Europe. Therefore, for the few of us who do carry the torch of liberty into the public square, we find ourselves being a minority within a minority. This article is intended to list those nine individuals who, in my mind, currently form the pinnacle of libertarian activism in Sub-Saharan Africa, and who deserve much more credit than I can give. I recommend having a look at the work all of them have done across the continent, and the world.
9. Franklin Cudjoe, Ghana
Franklin Cudjoe founded both the popular libertarian website AfricanLiberty.org as well as the educational think tank IMANI Center for Policy & Education in Ghana. No stranger to controversy, Cudjoe enjoys getting in the faces of Ghanaian politicians and cronyists who abuse the public purse and provide sub-par services through state corporations. Cudjoe has won various international awards from institutions such as the John Templeton Foundation, for his work in advancing the cause of liberty in West Africa.
In this video Cudjoe – in a Rand Paul-like manner – decries how legislation is rushed through the Ghanaian Parliament without its proponents having read the bills or considered them thoroughly in committee.
8. Olumayowa Okediran, Nigeria
Olumayowa Okediran practically founded the student movement for liberty on the African continent single-handedly, having established the African Liberty Student Organization (ALSO) in Nigeria. He later went on to found African Students For Liberty (ASFL) in 2013, an organization of which I am now proudly an executive board member of. Okediran is currently ASFL’s Programs Manager. The online youth newspaper YNaija included Okediran in their 2016 PowerList – a list of the most influential young Nigerian activists – writing “Okediran leads a crop of young people across Africa dedicated to promoting human rights and individual liberties as well as market-based solutions to Africa’s problems.”
In this photo Okediran is accepting an award on behalf of ASFL at the International Students For Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C.
7. Tony Leon, South Africa
Tony Leon is the former Federal Leader of the Democratic Alliance and its predecessor, the Democratic Party. Leon sat in South Africa’s Parliament from 1989 to 2009, and was the country’s ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, between 2009 and 2012. He has recently written articles for the Cato Institute, where he was also a Visiting Fellow. A 1999 Mail & Guardian article had the following to say about Leon:
“His agenda is that of the classic liberal: civil rights, rule of law, strict separation of entities like Parliament and the judiciary. He welcomes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the new Constitution, but as regards the latter he puts in a plea for the studious defence of minorities against the ‘tyranny of the majority’.”
In this photo Leon is addressing a crowd with the first democratically-elected President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
6. Rejoice Ngwenya, Zimbabwe
As analysts predict the end of President Robert Mugabe’s four decade-long dictatorship in Zimbabwe, Rejoice Ngwenya continues to fight for market solutions and liberal values to the Marxist-Leninist state’s problems. Ngwenya is the founder of the Coalition for Market and Liberal Solutions, a policy group dedicated to bringing some economic sanity and a healthy respect for property rights to one of the last outposts of the Soviet Union – or, I should say, the last outpost of 1960s Communist China. Ngwenya stands practically alone as a libertarian in Zimbabwe.
In this video, Ngwenya talks to various Zimbabweans about the virtues of the free market and private property rights.
5. Temba Nolutshungu, South Africa
Temba Nolutshungu is a director of the Free Market Foundation of Southern Africa, one of the few pro-free market and civil liberty organizations on the continent, and perhaps the institution’s most credentialed official within the context of the struggle against Apartheid. Nolutshungu was an associate of renowned anti-Apartheid activist Steve Biko, and a core member of the Black Consciousness Movement which focused on creating a climate of self-respect among South Africa’s then-oppressed black majority.
In this video Nolutshungu discusses economic liberty and how it could help South Africa’s economic growth.
4. Frans Cronje, South Africa
Frans Cronje is the CEO of the Institute of Race Relations, one of only a few classical liberal think tanks in South Africa. Its classical liberalism is not its only distinctive feature, however: it is perhaps the oldest continuously-existing think tank on the African continent, having been founded in 1929. The IRR opposed the Apartheid ideology almost from its inception, and after it ended in 1993, continues to fight for individual liberty and economic freedom. A former police officer with a degree in both international relations and scenario planning, Cronje became the IRR’s CEO in 2013. He has delivered countless speeches to international audiences – from the Cato Institute to foreign governments – on the future of South Africa. His services have also been utilized by the South African government.
In this video, Cronje lays out the various possible roads South Africa will head down in the future, to a Cato Institute audience.
3. Herman Mashaba, South Africa
Herman Mashaba wrote the popular book Capitalist Crusader: Fighting Poverty Through Economic Growth wherein he unapologetically explains how economic freedom is the only avenue to South Africa’s emancipation from crippling levels of poverty. Mashaba is the former Chairman of the Board of the Free Market Foundation, and as of the writing of this article, was running for Mayor of the City of Johannesburg under the banner of the historically pro-market Democratic Alliance.
In this video Mashaba explains his book and why South Africans should embrace capitalism.
2. George Ayittey, Ghana
George Ayittey is perhaps the most well-known pro-market African economist in the world. Ayittey is the President of the Washington D.C.-based Free Africa Foundation, and has written extensively against so-called ‘African socialism’ and in favor of property rights and freedom. Ayittey has recently called for abolishing the African Union, writing that the Brexit vote offered a new beginning to African nations as well. No friend to dictators, Ayittey writes of the AU:
“It is famous for its annual summits, where unrepentant despots sip champagne and applaud their own longevity while issuing preposterous communiqués that nobody else in the world pays attention to.”
In this video, Ayittey explains the failures and fallacies of the concept of ‘African socialism’, to a San Francisco Libertarian Party audience.
1. Leon Louw, South Africa
Leon Louw has seen and done it all in his long years of service to the cause of free market economics, personal liberty, and the rule of law. He is the current Executive Director of the Free Market Foundation. In the late 1980s he co-authored South Africa: The Solution with his wife, Frances Kendall. The bestselling book laid out a template for a free South Africa based on libertarian principles and the Swiss canton system, wherein there would be no racial Apartheid. In 1993 he and the Free Market Foundation played a big role in enshrining the protection of property rights in South Africa’s first democratic constitution, which eventually also incorporated suggestions from his book. He has also consulted with various foreign governments on issues of economic freedom and constitutional reform, including that of Kenya, Hong Kong, and the former Czechoslovakia. Louw has been nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In this video, Louw explains why ‘wealth inequality’ is a sorely misunderstood concept, and somewhat of a red herring in public policy debates, to a Property and Freedom Society audience.
This post was written by Martin van Staden.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.