When I retired as chair of the economics departments of the University of Zambia, then later of Zimbabwe, tradition required that, like all expatriate department heads, I give an inaugural address. Both times, I wondered why. After all, I was leaving not only the university but the country. I could no longer inaugurate anything. Tonight, however, as I leave the presidency of the African Studies Association, the job is just beginning. Opening the decade of the 1990s, this ASA Annual meeting will complete the first phase of the work of the Task Force the ASA Board set up in Atlanta a year ago. On this foundation, together with our African colleagues, we hope to inaugurate increasingly collaborative efforts to support the attainment of sustainable development in Africa.
As Africanists, we have always understood Africa's close historical ties to our own country, its rich contributions to our own cultural and artistic heritage. At the same time, our work has brought home to us more than to many Americans, the impact of the deepening economic, social and political crisis that has seemingly engulfed all aspects of African life. We all know the economic features of that crisis: worsening terms of trade, growing national and international debt, devaluation and austerity programs which have undermined the real incomes of most Africans. Many of us have helped document the social impact of drastic reductions in programs for education, health and environment, especially on women and children.