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Africa is a Country Initiates Search for Africa’s Most Influential Thinker: Vote Now!

Chinua Achebe

Africa is a Country has initiated a poll asking members of the public to vote for the most influential African thinker alive. While they acknowledge that not everyone will be happy with the list of “thinkers” they have generated, they have tried to include a range of intellectuals from different parts of the continent – or, indeed, outside the continent.

In an attempt to counteract the limited nature of such lists, Africa is a Country will host a second round where readers’ suggestions will determine the choices. You can offer your suggestions for the second round of voting in the comments section below the poll, on Africa is a Country’s Facebook page or via Twitter.

Capitalism in the Age of GlobalizationThe Liberal VirusEthnicity, Inc.Modernity and its MalcontentsAnthills of the SavannahFrom Citizen to RefugeeScholars in the MarketplaceThe Honor CodeCosmopolitanism

Here’s the complete list, as decided by Africa is a Country:

Samir Amin, academic, activist, Senegal/Egypt (Author of The Liberal Virus, Capitalism in the Age of Globalisation)
Jean and John Comaroff, academics, South Africa/United States (Ethnicity, Inc., Modernity and its Malcontents)
Chinua Achebe, writer, Nigeria (Things Fall Apart, Anthills of the Savannah)
Mahmood Mamdani, academic, Uganda (From Citizen to Refugee, Sholars in the Marketplace)
Mamdouh Habashi, academic, politician, Egypt
Kwame Anthony Appiah, academic, philosopher, Ghana/United States (The Honour Code, Cosmopolitanism),
Achille Mbembe, academic, Cameroon/South Africa (On the Postcolony, Johannesburg:The Elusive Metropolis)
JM Coetzee, writer, South Africa/Australia (In the Heart of the Country, The Life and Times of Michael K)
Issa Shivji, academic, Tanzania (Let the People Speak, Accumulation in an African Periphery)
Nawal el Saadawi, writer and activist, Egypt (The Hidden Face of Eve, Women at Point Zero)
Wole Soyinka, writer, activist, Nigeria (You Must Set Forth at Dawn, The Open Sore of a Continent)
Virginie Toure, activist, Cote d’Ivoire

JohannesburgIn the Heart of the CountryLife and Times of Michael KLet the People SpeakAccumulation in an African PeripheryWoman at Point ZeroThe Hidden Face of EveThe Open Sore of a ContinentYou Must Set Forth at Dawn

More about the poll:

At the end of 2011 we contemplated asking you, dear reader, who you think was the most influential African thinker alive. We abandoned the idea for a while because of our thing against lists (except our end of year lists, of course). I got the initial idea from the British blog, Left Foot Forward, which had run a contest to determine “the most influential leftwing thinker of the year 2010/11.” The result of the Left Foot Forward contest is here. Based on reader choices, Left Foot Forward came up with the usual suspects (among others, economist and columnist Paul Krugman, columnist Polly Toynbee, journalist Will Hutton, author and academic Owen Jones, and Caroline Lucas, the leader of Britain’s Green Party) but also with some strange ones (Tony Blair? Barack Obama? Bernard Henri-Lévy?). On that latter group: it is true that one man’s leftwing is another’s rightwing. That said, an inevitable blind spot of Left Foot Forward’s list was that “left-wing thinker” is synonymous with “Anglo American,” and of course heavily British. So, it got me thinking: If we could ask our readers (and critics, and everyone else) to do the same thing, who would you pick?

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Photo courtesy Bill Moyers


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