Adebayo Adedeji was one of the most towering intellectual figures and development practitioners in Africa in the late 20th Century. He served as Executive Secretary of ECA for sixteen years (1975- 1991); the longest tenure in that position by any executive secretary. Under his leadership, ECA assumed not only regional but global prominence initiating and leading several Pan-African projects and working closely with the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in promoting regional integration, and the social and economic development of the Continent. Some of the historic economic initiatives that took place with ECA’s intervention under him include the famous Lagos Plan of Action and the Final Act of Lagos of 1980, the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) of 1991, the African Charter on Popular Participation in Development and Transformation popularly known as the Arusha Declaration of 1990 and the African Alternative Framework to the Structural Adjustment Programme for socio-economic recovery and transformation (AAF-SAP). Adedeji’s philosophy of development privileges a self-reliant inward looking approach of domestic resource mobilisation, improved productive capacity, infrastructure provision and upgrading, human capital development and collective economic action by African States through the promotion of regional economic integration. As Adedeji noted;
“As I have said and written many a time before, the two pillars around which the structural transformation of the African economy must be built are the principles of self-reliance and of self-sustainment. The achievement of an increasing measure of self-reliance will bring about (i) the internalization of the forces of demand which determine the direction of development and economic growth and the patterns of output; (ii) increasing substitution of indigenous factor inputs for expatriate factor inputs; and (iii) increasing mass participation in the development process accompanied by a more equitable distribution of the social product”.