Adebayo Adedeji, former UNECA chief, dies at 87

Pioneer Executive Director of the Addis Ababa based United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and undersecretary general of the UN, Adebayo Adedeji. [Photo credit: Realnews Magazine]

A former Executive Director of the Addis Ababa based United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and undersecretary general of the UN, Adebayo Adedeji, is dead.

He died in Lagos at the age 87 after a protracted illness. He was born in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State on 21 December 1930.

His death, in the late hours of Wednesday, was announced by a family member according to reports by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

After obtaining BSc. and PhD in Economics at London School of Economics and an MPA from Harvard University, Mr Adedeji joined the University of Ife, where he became a professor of economics at the age of 36.

Mr Adedeji was the second Executive Secretary to the UN Economic Commission for Africa [ECA], serving between 1975 -1978, after which he was appointed the UN Undersecretary General. He remained in the ECA post until 1991.  The first ECA boss was the Ghanaian economist and sociologist, Dr Robert K. Gardiner.

In a professional career characterised by thoughtful policy making and innovative institutional building, Mr Adedeji who was Nigeria’s federal commissioner for economic development and reconstruction, from 1971 led the process towards the establishment of the Economic Commission for West Africa States (ECOWAS). He also inspired the formation of the National Youth Service Corps in 1973 and became the pioneer Chairman.

It was at the ECA that Mr Adedeji made the most significant impact on regional integration on the continent.

Beside ECOWAS, Mr Adedeji actively promoted the creation of other regional groupings, including the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), which later became the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Before his death, Mr Adedeji was the director of the African Centre for Development and Strategic Studies, a think-tank NGO based in his hometown, Ijebu Ode, Ogun, Nigeria.

The University of London icon would also be remembered for his contributions to Africa’s economic recovery, some of which was encapsulated in his major address on “The History and Prospects for Regional Integration in Africa”.

Mr Adedeji was also a frontline member of his Ijebu-Ode community and a close associate of Oba Sikiru Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebu land. He was the Asiwaju of Ijebuland (leader) and Bobajiro of the Awujale (chief adviser to the monarch) as well.

The chair of Sikiru Adetona professorial seat at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ayo Olukotun, a professor, expressed shock at the death of Mr Adedeji.

Mr Olukotun is also the Secretary General of the International Relations Society of Nigeria.

“Though elderly, Mr Adedeji would be greatly missed. We, in the international relation society, would have been happier, if he had stayed on for a while longer.

“His death is a rude shock to us. We would have been happier to have him around to influence discussions on alternative strategy, which he championed during his iconic stint at the ECA.

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“His contribution to alternative to Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) cannot be forgotten. His effort led to adoption of the alternatives by many African countries.

“Adedeji would still have been very relevant today as the continent still searches for economic redirection,” Mr Olukotun said.


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