Variations in Postcolonial Imagination: Reflection on Senghor, Nyerere, and Nkrumah

Jimi Adesina

This article aims to strengthen contemporary efforts to construct and pursue a pan-African agenda by interrogating the post-colonial imaginings of Léopold Sédar Senghor, Julius Nyerere, and Kwame Nkrumah. To counter the present-day tendency to erase and flatten the diversity of this period, this chapter explores the variations and similarities of the three leaders’ approaches to socialism, pan-African unity, nationhood, economic development, epistemology, and democracy. Through this contrast, the article derives some broad lessons for the contemporary period, including the importance of cultivating domestic resources (human, material, and financial) rather than being dependent on external forces; the need for countries to construct a macro vision that coordinates their economic, social, and political projects; and the importance of maintaining the sovereignty of thought in the policy thinking on the continent to effectively break free from the universal, market-based prescriptions that now dominate under neoliberalism.

Play Video

Jimi Adesina is Professor and the DST/NRF SARChI Chair in Social Policy at the College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa in South Africa. Educated at the University of Ibadan (Nigeria) and Warwick University (UK), he served on the Executive Committee of the CODESRIA, and was Chair of its Programme Sub-Committee. A past President of the South African Sociological Association, he was elected to the Academy of Science of South Africa in 2005. He serves on the Board of the UN Research Institute for Social Development and the Board of RC19 of the International Sociological Association. His research interests include sociology, social policy, and the political economy of Africa’s development. He has published widely in these areas.

More from Jimi

Dismantling and transcending colonialism’s legacy

This article explores Nkrumah, Senghor, and Nyerere’s acute awareness on the impact of European epistemology and need to go beyond “flag independence,” analyzing the importance of an African-centered viewpoint.

Development Planning in Ghana and Tanzania: Post-Independence Strategies

A thorough dissection of the industrialization tools and vision of Nkrumah in post-independence Ghana, offered by Jimi Adesina (Professor, University of South Africa; Researcher, Post-Colonialisms Today).