Free Societies

Discussing corruption, economic freedom, and future prosperity at Africa Liberty Forum 2018

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In August, 106 attendees representing 35 organizations from 16 countries gathered together for Africa Liberty Forum 2018, which took place in Lagos, Nigeria and was co-hosted by African Students for Liberty. The forum focused on issues like corruption, challenges in the current foreign aid system, and unlocking the economic potential of the continent.

Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips poses for a photo with an attendee of the African Liberty Forum 2018.
Olumayowa Okediran (Assistant Director of International Programs, African Students for Liberty) and Brad Lips (CEO, Atlas Network) after their opening remarks at Africa Liberty Forum 2018.

Brad Lips, CEO of Atlas Network (United States) and Olumayowa Okediran from African Students for Liberty (Nigeria) kicked off the conference with opening remarks.

“There’s the beginnings of a thriving liberty movement here in Africa,” said Lips while addressing the attendees. “It is all thanks to you guys for spreading a different and hopeful narrative.” Okediran followed up by acknowledging that while the African liberty movement has grown it is still looking to expand through new partnerships and organizations in order to drive even more change in the continent.

Dr. George Ayittey's book 'Applied Economics'.
Applied Economics for Africa, by Dr, George Ayittey.

One of the highlights was the announcement of the the publication of a new textbook: Applied Economics for Africa, by Dr. George B. N. Ayittey. The textbook began production in 2013 when Atlas Network officers met with Ayittey to explore what would have the greatest long-term positive impact for liberty and prosperity in Africa. Various projects were discussed, but the discussion turned repeatedly to the lack of sound economics education, which has driven so many disastrously harmful policies.

Ahead of Africa Liberty Forum 2018, Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips sits down with renowned Ghanaian economist George Ayittey to discuss his new economics textbook for Africa: Applied Economics for Africa.

“We talked about how textbooks are rarely available to students, as I had noted at a number of African colleges,” said Atlas Network’s Dr. Tom Palmer. “George explained that, when economics books were in the library, they were often either Marxist tracts or were littered with foreign examples from the U.S. or Europe to which the students could not relate their own experiences.”

Ayittey proposed to write a new textbook that would explain economics as a useful social science and that would draw on familiar examples and on African history. A commitment was made to support Ayittey’s research and his travels across the continent to gather material for the book.

Four men hold a photo of another man at the at the Africa Liberty Forum 2018.
A group shot with the portrait of Dr. Ayittey.

The result is a complete university-level textbook, Applied Economics for Africa, in which Ayittey vividly describes the deep history of market exchange in African societies and explains that a free and prosperous continent will depend, not on importing socialist ideas from abroad, but on building upon “its own indigenous heritage of participatory democracy based upon consensus, free village markets, and free enterprise.” This book has already been met with praise from Nobel Laureates Vernon Smith and Thomas Sargent. Once published, it will be available free of charge on and

A man speaks at the at the Africa Liberty Forum 2018.
Audience participation at Africa Liberty Forum 2018.

Key lectures focused on overcoming government corruption in order to protect property rights, and help boost Africa’s entrepreneurial future and peaceful cooperation.

“Every single one of you — no matter how big or small a part you are playing — you are adding to the efforts of those before you,” said keynote speaker June Arunga from Usafi Comfort (Kenya). She also addressed reasons why business in African countries was lagging behind other countries. She focused on the importance of enhancing quality in order to attract customers and instill trust, as well as the importance of being able to scale up businesses and communicate your mission and goals with other organizations outside of Africa.

A woman speaks at the at the Africa Liberty Forum 2018.
June Arunga (Usafi Comfort, Kenya).

“There is a story I heard growing up,” said Manali Shah (India) to kick off the panel on government corruption. “For every 1 rupee spent, only 20 percent reaches the poor.” Corruption is not unique to Africa, but negative outcomes are always a result. The panel discussed how corruption takes power away from the people, distorts equality before the law, and hinders accountability.

Three men at a table.
Left: Feyisade Charles Adeyemi (Chale Institute, Nigeria), Rejoice Ngwenya (COMALISO, Zimbabwe), and Chukwuemeka Ezeugo (Global African Christians for Liberty Initiative, Nigeria) on the panel for Expanding Property Rights.

“We can talk about freedom of speech and other rights,” said Chukwuemeka Ezeugo of Global African Christians for Liberty (Nigeria) during the panel on “Extending Property Rights.” “But if we don’t talk about property rights we have barely started. Property rights are fundamental to other rights.”

“We know that private property is a fundamental human right,” said Feyisade Charles Adeyemi, of the Chale Institute (Nigeria). “For people to have happiness and prosperity, they need to have possession and ownership rights.”

In addition to property rights, the forum focused on the importance of respecting everyone’s liberty during the panel on “Living Together.” “One of the biggest challenges we all face is learning how to live together with people of different beliefs, backgrounds, and perspectives,” said Palmer. Olumide Makanjuola of the Initiative for Equal Rights, (Nigeria) also echoed this sentiment by saying, “We will never be the same, but what we can do is respect each other.”

Ezeugo emphasized the impact the embracing these concepts could have. “A lot of the conflict in Africa has to do with a lack of understanding of freedom in respect to differences. Ultimately we need to realize that other people might be different, but that is not a problem. We need to respect their freedom to be who they are.”

With local organizations fighting to end corruption and enforce property rights, the African future that the Cheetah Generation can create will be one of economic prosperity and human flourishing.

A man speaking on stage at the Students for Liberty Africa event.
Denis Foretia (Nkafu Policy Institute, Cameroon) won the 2018 Think Tank Shark Tank — Africa Competition.

Denis Foretia of Nkafu Policy Institute (Cameroon) won the 2018 Think Tank Shark Tank — Africa Competition, which is sponsored by the Smith Family Foundation. His pitched project was the Free Enterprise Fellows which seeks to educate and train the next thought leaders in Cameroon. The greatest challenge to free enterprise policies in Cameroon is the lack of credible, talented, and experienced policy scholars. This program will begin to fundamentally change that through an intensive week-long course on free enterprise, policy formulation, and engagement.

"Winning the Think Tank Shark Tank competition is a major first step in our goal to move Cameroon away from government-led socialist policies to a country where free enterprise and economic freedoms are the backbone of the society," said Foretia.

A man proudly holds his plaque at the Students for Liberty Africa event.
Aimable Manirakiza (Centre For Development and Enterprises Great Lakes, Burundi) won the 2018 Africa Liberty Award.

The John Templeton Foundation generously sponsored this years’ Africa Liberty Award, which was awarded to Centre For Development and Enterprises Great Lakes’ Birashoboka project. The term “birashoboka” is a local Kirundi word from Burundi that means “it’s possible.” The goal of the campaign is to make it possible for Burundian, Rwandan, and Congolese entrepreneurs to thrive within their communities through educating entrepreneurs on business best practices, as well as reducing regulatory frameworks to streamline the business process. One major win was when the Ministry of Commerce eased the burden of registering businesses by reducing the start up cost from 140,000 francs (USD $78) to 40,000 francs (USD $22) in Burundi.

“This award represents a great victory for the efforts of a team passionate about social change through free enterprise that will bring dignity to many people,” said Aimable Manirakiza, founder and CEO of CDE–Great Lakes (Burundi). “We have been working for some time on our ‘Birashoboka’ campaign with some success thanks to the support of Atlas Network but today we know that our efforts will go beyond Burundi for a free Africa.”

Performers dance and play music on stage.
Musical and dance performance during the Africa Liberty Forum 2018.

Africa Liberty Forum 2018 has been made possible by the generosity of many donors, including major gifts from the Smith Family Foundation, the Thomas W. Smith Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation, who support Atlas Network’s Regional Liberty Forums throughout the world.

Atlas Network looks forward to celebrating even more success stories at Africa Liberty Forum 2019, which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya.