My research examines development as both ideology and state-directed interventions in colonial and postcolonial Africa, south of the Sahara. It looks at the ideologies that shape the planners and it examines how these are translated into actual practices and interventions.
My book, The Second Colonial Occupation: Development Planning, Agriculture, and the Legacies of British Rule in Nigeria was published in August of 2017. This book was nominated, and it won the New York African Studies Association 2018 Book Award. It historicizes late colonial development policy. Using Nigeria’s 1945 Colonial Development Plan as a case study, it examines development as a discourse, integrating the context, politics, and human elements that had an impact both on the design and implementation of the plan. The book challenges some of the dominant narratives in the literature which limit the failure of development in Africa to lack of resources, resistance, to change on the part of indigenous people, patrimonialism, corruption, and the ineptitude of African leadership. It argues that poor planning inspired by imperial ideologies is responsible for the failure of development. This book also invites readers to consider the ideological and material interests that informed planning and implementation. Research for this book was carried out at the National Archives, Kew, London; the Rhodes House, Oxford; and the Nigerian National Archives, Kaduna.
My next book project, Rush to Failure: Modernization and Nation-Building in Postcolonial Africa examines the role that American social scientists and foundations played in Africa during the Cold War period to fashion nascent African democracies into the image of America. In it, I analyze postcolonial development plans that were designed and sponsored by American institutions to forge policies in Africa that would lead to American style political and economic culture. Their interests were to industrialize African states, institutionalize free market economies, and introduce modern liberal democracies. This book will help shed light on the transition between British-led colonial development and American-led postcolonial development. It will answer the question why did early postcolonial development policies in Africa fail? I have completed substantial archival research for this book at the National Archives II, College Park, MD; MIT Archives and Special Collections, Cambridge, MA; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston, MA; and the Nigerian National Archives, Ibadan, Nigeria.
My research contributes to the ongoing debates surrounding the failure of development plans in the Global South, and it is the first to historicize development in West Africa, focusing primarily on the planning processes. My research is also policy relevant in that it helps development experts who are tasked with designing and implementing policies and schemes to identify some of the pitfalls during the planning processes, thus leading to better outcomes for inhabitants of Africa who are often living in terrible conditions partly because of planning failures.