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A Great Ghanaian Economist: Dr. Yaw Nyarko-Part ll

Sat, 21 Dec 2013 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

We concluded the first part, “A Great Ghanaian Economist: Dr. Yaw Nyarko?Part l,” with critical comments on those of our scholars who find social power, intellectual prestige, and personal importance in titular vanity of intellectualism. To those scholars, the social vanity of big titles more than makes up for intellectual lethargy and political inaction, where, for instance, rather than advancing growth, development, and community, which should be the primary foci of their intellectual activities, they promote ethnocentrism and disunity instead.

Fortunately, Drs. Asante, Mazama, Lawrence, and Nyarko, those we have profiled so far, don’t belong in this lazy class. Neither is any of them an idle arm-chair theorist. In fact, their productive scholarship, social influence, and political activism firmly confirm the academic link between praxis and theory. This is very important because merely dabbling in theorizing does not directly or necessarily lead to material actualities if useful connections of equational linearities are not established between theory and praxis. Praxis is, in effect, the epitomic consummation of intellection! This is what our institutions must strive to inculcate in our students. Dr. Yaw Nyarko’s work is a good example of this.

Meantime, New York University-based Development Research Institute (DRI), an institution directed by Yaw Nyarko and William Easterly, two scholars whose influential joint research work, “Is the Brain Drain Good for Africa?”, and Nyarko’s solo project, “The Returns To The Brain Drain And Brain Circulation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Some Computations Using Data From Ghana,” supplied the theoretical bases for our essays “The Political Economy of Brain Drain and Brain Gain” and “The Sociological Mathematics of Growth and Development,” is in hopeful grips of exercising transformative make-up on behalf of Africa. This Institute conducts original, rigorous scholarly research devoted to the economic growth and development of poor countries, with particular emphasis on African economies.

Contrarily, the research and intellectual focus of DRI deviates somewhat from that of Ghana’s Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) or IMANI, say, because, for one thing, the policy strategies of the IEA and IMANI are not necessarily internationalist in ideological outlook; instead they are localistic or nativist in scope. For instance, Dr. Nyarko has been collaborating with officials at the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange to modernize traditional transactions?which essentially deal with the political economy of locally produced commodities?by eliminating high costs and high risks associated with the traditional approach. This investigative approach is being replicated across Africa.

Dr. Nyarko hopes to force the Ethiopian market from global isolation into the global economy (See “Coffee Prices & The Ethiopian Commodities Exchange (ECX)?Building and Sustaining Markets Program”). In fact, Dr. Nyarko’s work with DRI would earn him an international recognition?the 2009 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award. The other organization which he directs, CTED, is currently engaged in various research programs directly affecting African farmers. These include research into how the following are likely to positively impact farming in Africa: Commodity exchanges, which we have already mentioned, market information systems, and CTED mobile Applications lab. In healthcare, CTED has created a software technology, called epothecary, which helps the general public, patients, and healthcare professionals track counterfeit and expired drugs. CTED is also performing relevant data analysis in connection with the development of photovoltaic energy, a sustainable technology to be made available to rural settlements years to come.

Finally, improving and expanding education to the masses in deprived areas has not escaped the immediate research and intellectual focus of CTED. Reversing the unreliability of internet connectivity is a primary preoccupation of CTED. As a result, CTED has created a system, Contextual Information Portal (CIP), to address this problem. Importantly, among his large repertoire of achievements, Dr. Nyarko has also served as a Visiting Professor at the University of Paris (Sorbonne); Visiting Professor of Economics at Ashesi University, where his strategic management advice played a key role in the founding of Ashesi University; Visiting Fellow at Yale Growth Center and the Cowles Foundation; Visiting Professor at the University of Venice; and Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Furthermore, he has served as Assistant Professor at Brown University, the same university where the late Chinua Achebe taught literature. The playwright Ama Ata Aidoo and the African American conservative economic theorist, Glenn Loury, the first black tenured economics professor at Harvard University and winner of the 2005 John von Neumann Award, both taught at Brown University. Still, Glenn Loury, who teaches at Brown University, is noted for his role in developing the Coate-Loury Model of Affirmative Action. In fact, a Ghanaian, Prof. Awewura Kwara, a noted infectious disease scientist, is comfortably ensconced in Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, so is Anani Dzidzienyo, another Ghanaian intellectual, who also serves as an Associate Professor of African, Portuguese, and Brazilian Studies.

Quite apart from his achievements, and, besides, Dr. Easterly, Dr. Nyarko has collaborated with a number of influential scholars across diverse academic disciplines?in the world. Particularly captivating is Harvard University’s Prof. Emmanuel Acheampong, a board member of the Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, an ex-Chair of Harvard’s Committee on African Affairs, and a well-known public intellectual whose influence, alongside Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s, led to the creation of Harvard’s Department of African and African American Studies.

Actually, based on the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary nature of their academic work, research interests, and universal applicability of their ideas, alone, we tried, though unsuccessfully, to link Dr. Molefi Kete Asante with Dr. Yaw Nyarko, in the late 2000s, in high hopes that the two could come up with a model, a creative synthesis of economic theory and Afrocentric theory, sufficiently capable of addressing Africa’s myriad problems. Having said that, we note Dr. Molefi Kete Asante led the way in the world as far as scholarship and research on the African world is concerned and, more appropriately, public intellectuals like Drs. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Emmanuel Acheampong followed suit.

Currently, we owe the strength and prestigious station of African and African American Studies in the West primarily to Dr. Asante’s steadfastness, ingenuity, and activism (See his masterpiece “The Creation of the Doctorate in African American Studies at Temple University at the Door of Eurocentric Hegemony”), though we cannot gloss over the initiatives of WEB Du Bois, Lorenzo Turner, Hebert Aptheker, Carter G. Woodson, and Melville Herskovits. The theory of Afrocentricty, we firmly believe, has a place in economic theory. We have seen the eminent scholar Dr. Na’im Akbar extend the theory of Afrocentricty to psychology. Others, black and white, have extended the theory to the natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, and architecture.

This proposed theoretical intersection between economic theory and Afrocentric theory is important because the influences of African/African American Studies and Dr. Asante’s theory of Afrocentricty have permeated the social sciences, even forcing one of his greatest intellectual nemeses, Dr. Mary Lefkowitz, of Wellesley College, to come to terms with its transformative power to address social problems. Again, the impact of the theory of Afrocentricty is not lost on Asia. In fact, two former students of Dr. Asante’s, Profs. Yoshitaka and Jing Yin, have developed a similar concept, Asiacentricity, particularly in communication research. We bring this up to underscore the theoretical versatility of Afrocentricty. We, therefore, need to explore the possibility, if not the actuality, of mongrelizing economic theory and Afrocentric theory.

Moreover, the impact of Harold Cruse, author of the influential “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual,” on Dr. Asante is not a view we can ignore. Many of our scholars today are still confronted with serious crisis of intellectual indirection given their lack of analytic focus on proposing creative practical solutions to problems. That said, let’s add that collaboration is a powerful tool for achieving scientific, technological, and financial success in today’s competitive world. Drs. Nyarko, Lawrence, and Asante, to mention but three, have realized this and, therefore, use it to their advantage on behalf of the African world. In this context, Dr. Nyarko has successfully collaborated with Jay Chen, Lakshminarayanan Subramanian, Liubia Shirley, Eddie Mandhry, Madonna Kendona-Sowah, Young Hyung Kim, Benjamin Ersing, Marina Kosyachenko, and Liron Lerman, all affiliated with either Africa House or CTED, or both.

Indeed, Dr. Nyarko is an intellectual multi-disciplinarian, just as Ama Mazama, Cheikh Anta Diop, Toni Morrison, Molefi Kete Asante, Ama Ata Aidoo, Noam Chomsky, Nadine Gordimer, WEB Du Bois, Theophile Obenga, and Victor Lawrence have been or are. Finally, he also played a signal role in the founding of Labone’s NYU Accra, a long-distance educational affiliate of New York University, one of the top universities in the world. Prominent professors from the University of Ghana are actively involved in pedagogical and administrative activities there. This brings us to the political economy of education and schooling.

Are education and schooling (training) necessarily synonymous concepts? Are there any qualitative differences between the two? Obviously. “Afrocentric scholars distinguish between education?which is a transformative process that leads toward skill mastery and knowledge of oneself, and training?which is a process of learning how to get along in a system. True education offers students knowledge of how to administer within their own communities and how to solve the problems therein as well,” write Darrell Cleveland and KMT Shockley in “Culture, Power, and Education: The Philosophies and Pedagogy of African-Centered Educators,” published in the 2011 edition of the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol. 3 (3), p. 54-75.

These qualitative differences between the two processes are important, again, because our educational systems seem to concentrate more on schooling than on education. However, we may conveniently want to view the process of schooling as part of the psychological indoctrination of pedagogical scaffolding, which, Carter Woodson, an educator, titularly referred to as “The Mis-education of the Negro.” What do we do to restructure our educational institutions in order to make them more amenable to providing education, rather than schooling or training, to students? This is one of the intellectual crises Harold Cruse inferentially talked about.

Alternatively, Mwalimu J. Shujaa, author of “To Much Schooling: Too Little Education,” lays the differences out thus: “The schooling process is designed to provide an ample supply of people who are loyal to the nation-state and who have learned the skills needed to perform the work that is necessary to maintain the dominance of the European-American elite in its social order. For African Americans, individual success in schooling is often simply a matter of demonstrating one’s ability to represent the interests of the European American elite. Through such a process, African people as a group are able to derive little benefit from the schooling of our members and, even then, it is most likely to be in the interest of the European American elite for us to do so, (p.10)).”

Need we say more? Indeed, schooling has the potential to lead to what the Pulitzer-winning Chris Hedges addresses in his book “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” and to what Noam Chomsky also calls “Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies.” Therefore, to curtail these pedagogical shortcomings from taking root in the human psyche, vigorous pursuit of education should be the way forward. Education should promote private good and public good, as well as unity, development, community, growth, and, more importantly, self-love! Also, schooling (and illiteracy) have produced the likes of Adolf Hitler, Adolf Eichmann, Joseph Goebbels, William Lynch, Dr. Death, William Luther Pierce, etc.

Dr. Death, properly known as Dr. Wouter Basson, a cardiologist, once headed South Africa’s secret biological and chemical warfare program, and, in that capacity, he provide the Apartheid government with chemicals which were then used to kill anti-Apartheid activists. William Luther Pierce, on the contrary, authored “The Turner Diaries,” the Ku Klux Klan’s Bible. This book contributed to the radicalization of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. But the questions is: Why are we bringing up all these? Education. Let’s use education to fight ethnocentrism, poverty, diseases, illiteracy, etc. Let’s make economics and Afrocentricty part of the education of our lives. Both have the power to minimize or eliminate critical illiteracy in populations.

Please read Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” and Joel Waldfogel’s “The Tyranny of the Market: Why You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

We shall return…

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis