Economist George Ayittey sees Africa's future as a fight between Hippos — complacent, greedy bureaucrats wallowing in the muck — and Cheetahs, the fast-moving, entrepreneurial leaders and citizens who will rebuild Africa.

Why you should listen

Ghanaian economist George Ayittey was a voice in the wilderness for many years, crying out against the corruption and complacency that -- more than any other factor, he believes -- are the bedrock problems of many troubled Africa states. "We call our governments vampire states, which suck the economic vitality out of the people," he says.

His influential book Africa Unchained has helped unleash a new wave of activism and optimism -- especially in the African blogosphere, where his notion of cheetahs-versus-hippos has become a standard shorthand. The "Cheetah Generation," he says, is a "new breed of Africans," taking their futures into their own hands, instead of waiting for politicians to empower them. (He compares them to the previous "Hippo Generation," who are lazily stuck complaining about colonialism, yet doing nothing to change the status quo.)

Ayittey is a Distinguished Economist in Residence at American University in Washington, DC.

George Ayittey’s TED talk

George Ayittey on the TED Blog
See all
Q&A

George Ayittey on "Dead Aid"

April 9, 2009

Economist George Ayittey gave a blistering talk at TEDGlobal 2007, laying out his case that not only has Western aid not helped in most African countries — it’s actually hurting. We asked Ayittey for his thoughts on the new book Dead Aid, which has lately been burning up the talk shows and opinion columns with […]

Continue reading

Archive: George Ayittey on Cheetahs vs. Hippos for the soul of Africa

August 6, 2008

For the next two weeks, we’re presenting some of our favorite TEDTalks from among the 270+ talks and performances we’ve posted since June 2006. Look for brand-new TEDTalks starting August 18. Until then, enjoy these gems — and suggest your own by writing to contact@ted.com or joining the conversation on TED.com. Ghanaian economist George Ayittey […]

Continue reading

Vote for your favorite public intellectuals

May 1, 2008

Not to be outdone by the Time 100, the journals Foreign Policy and Prospect have together released a list of the Top 100 public intellectuals — with voting. Many TEDTalks favorites appear on the list, and you can help choose the eventual top 20 by voting for your very own top 5. From Foreign Policy‘s […]

Continue reading

Quotes from George Ayittey

Back in the 1960s Africa not only fed itself, it also exported food. Not anymore.
George Ayittey
TEDGlobal 2007 • 499K views Jul 2007
Inspiring, Courageous
Did you know that 40 percent of the wealth created in Africa is not invested here in Africa? It’s taken out of Africa.
George Ayittey
TEDGlobal 2007 • 499K views Jul 2007
Inspiring, Courageous
Helping Africa has been turned into a theater of the absurd. It’s like the blind leading the clueless.
George Ayittey
TEDGlobal 2007 • 499K views Jul 2007
Inspiring, Courageous