Honouring Samir Amin

Published on Pambazuka News, by Cameron Samir, Sept. 7, 2011.

I heard of Samir Amin long before I met him. As a member of the Ghana Youth Council, I was involved in organising a conference that we thought would bring together youth movements throughout Africa to plan how we could plan together to advance the cause of Africa’s political and economic development … // 

… It was not until 1991 that I had the opportunity to meet Mr Amin. I’d gone to Egypt to take part in shooting a television programme about the “axes” from which Africa’s economic resurrection appeared capable of emerging. We thought that Egypt to the north, Nigeria to the west and a renascent South Africa would be the most likely to provide the engine for Africa’s economic growth. But would they co-operate with one another in trade and development or become inward-looking pygmies unable to decipher the message that continental Africa was transmitting to them?

I got in touch with Samir Amin and arranged for him to be interviewed by our team. He gave us a whole morning, and gave us in clear, unambiguous terms, his take of how Africa ought to go about the business of making itself economically strong in order not to be swamped by the products of North America and Europe. Unfortunately, BBC politics intervened and although we got excellent footage in Zimbabwe and South Africa as well (Nigeria refused to give us permission to film there – until we had completed the project!) the programme was never transmitted.

I felt pretty awful about having wasted Samir Amin’s time, but remember the courtesy and patience with which he endured the often ridiculous demands that a television crew cannot help but make of those unfortunate enough to be exposed to such a group. “Can we have you looking towards the pyramids, please? Oh, the sun was in the wrong position for that shot. Can we have you say that again, this time from this different angle, please?”

Samir Amin never once complained. For those who have something important to say to the world know that the absurdities of modern technological requirements must be mastered if our clear understanding of the world is to be enhanced.

Happy birthday, Samir, man of both the 20th and 21st centuries. (full text).

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