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Foreword by

Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda 

First Female President of the Republic of Malawi and

Africa's Second Female President 

Innovating Development Strategies in Africa is a bold and ambitious undertaking in which Professor Landry Signé, Africa’s own esteemed and world-renowned expert on international and African affairs, masterfully illustrates more than five decades of economic development strategies and transformations in Africa. With accessible but incisive insight and a sincere professional, and personal interest, Professor Signé answers several of the key questions critical to development thinkers and policy leaders: What are the key drivers of innovation in development strategies and Africa’s transformation in the past half-century? What is the role of international, regional, and national actors in the formulation and implementation of developmental strategies in Africa? This book is a must-read for African and global leaders, policy makers, development practitioners, and scholars.

Professor Landry Signé is an ideal guide for this major endeavor. He combines a unique mix of globally acclaimed academic and policy contributions, which makes us Africans very proud and hopeful for the future of our continent with him as a contributor and leader. Born and raised in Cameroon, he was trained in seven universities on three continents (University of Lyon 3, University of Montreal, Sciences Po Paris, McGill University, Stanford University, University of Oxford, Harvard University) and has gained experiences in various institutions to become one of the most acclaimed African academics and public intellectuals of his generation. He has received widespread recognition, heralded as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader for offering “innovative solutions to the problems
faced by humankind.” He was also named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, as one of the “country’s most creative thinkers,” a Woodrow Wilson Public Policy Fellow for his “pre-eminent” and “world-class” research, and a Desmond Tutu Fellow, for being part of the “elite group of Africa’s highest potential... that drives the transformation” of the continent.


In his new book, Professor Signé offers the most powerful and sophisticated study of African economic development strategies from the 1960s to the present that I have ever read. He expertly uses extensive historical evidence to demonstrate the critical need for the study of policy innovation to go beyond looking merely at success or failure and classifying innovations as either incremental or paradigmatic, since “cumulated small changes sometimes leads to greater transformations.” It is these small changes revealed by Signé that explain why, despite a series of economic crises during the 1980s and 1990s and the apparent continuity of policies, African countries have achieved an overall positive economic transformation during the 2000s and 2010s, even if performances across individual nations are varied.
Professor Signé offers a comprehensive account of the complex role of international, regional, and national actors in the emergence and trajectories of development strategies in Africa from 1960 to the present − indispensable knowledge for understanding why some policy innovations evolve, succeed, or fail. His analysis shows that in spite of power asymmetry and international influences, African leaders remain key agents of their countries’ destinies. In these circumstances, competent, accountable, and transformational political leadership is crucial.


Many of the most respected development thinkers, economists, political scientists, and Africanists have praised this book, including Paul Collier, Nicolas van de Walle, Jeremy Weinstein, Robert Bates, and Steve Radelet. This unique recognition of Professor Landry Signé’s influential development thinking is not a surprise to me. For his academic contribution and leadership, the Junior Chamber International (JCI), named him one of “Ten Outstanding Young Persons in the World.” Previous JCI winners include academics such as Henry Kissinger and leaders such as John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Nelson Rockefeller. He has also received recognition from the World Bank and the American Political Science Association among others. His development and African expertise is regularly sought out by leading institutions such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the United Nations Global Network on Digital Technologies for Sustainable Urbanization, the World Economic Forum, the World Policy Conference, and leading media such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. Professor Signé’s extensive experience with diverse platforms explains his ability to efficiently engage a broad range of audiences while maintaining the highest level of academic rigor. He has provided refreshing insights for both casual and expert readers seeking to understand the major economic and policy transformations in Africa and to answer the critical questions of why, how, and to what extent the continent has been changing, and the nature of its processes and challenges. Professor Signé’s book, a testament to his accomplishments as a scholar, will change the way specialists and general readers think about development in Africa and will inform and drive actionable ideas for the policy and development community. As a former head of state, I have been delighted to read this inspirational book, and would have loved having access to its prodigious perspective while in office as president of Malawi. I urge everyone, especially my fellow African leaders and our international counterparts, to read this remarkable book.

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