Academic journal article Global Governance

The G8 and Africa: A Partial Reckoning

Academic journal article Global Governance

The G8 and Africa: A Partial Reckoning

Article excerpt

When future historians consider the global governance role of the G8, they would do well to consider its approach to Africa. For the first decade of the new millennium, G8 summits sustained an extraordinary focus on the continent. Responding to African governments' proposed New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), G8 governments produced a succession of agreements and initiatives, anchored by the 2002 Africa Action Plan and the 2005 Gleneagles declaration on Africa and development. These initiatives were framed by a motif of "partnership." They provided elite impetus toward a more comprehensive "Third Way" bargain for Africa. Collectively, they illustrate some stark limits to designs for a transnationally hegemonic approach to global challenges. In consequence, they have contributed to the erosion of G8 purpose and legitimacy. KEYWORDS: G8, Africa, NEPAD, hegemony.

AT THE GROUP OF 8 (G8) SUMMIT AT CAMP DAVID IN MAY 2012, THE leaders of the world's still-dominant but embattled capitalist states, struggling to forestall relative decline in relation to the rising states of the Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC) and Group of 20 (G-20) forums, once again turned their attention to the world's poorest continent. In an abbreviated summit agenda of just over one day, they devoted a working lunch to the now traditional Africa Outreach Session, in which the leaders of Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Benin participated and were present for the launch of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition--itself an elaboration on (some would say an attempt to rescue) the 2009 l'Aquila Food Security Initiative (AFSI). (1) The New Alliance received predictably mixed reviews, with summit enthusiast John Kirton labeling it a "strong success," and Oxfam International describing it as "a nice complement at best, a deflection at worst ... [that] will not be able to make up for the G8's broken promises." (2) For purposes of the following Special Focus contributions, however, two elements of the Camp David Africa focus are particularly significant. The first is that, in the tumultuous midst of Europe's ongoing financial travails, the crisis in Syria, the planning for withdrawal from Afghanistan, and myriad other global challenges, the G8 saw fit once again to give a prominent place on its agenda for action to African leaders and issues, as it has done almost continuously since 2000. The second is that, despite deep global misgivings about the previously dominant neoliberal model, the G8 stuck closely to its decade-long ideological and prescriptive script, stressing the need to use public funds in partnership with an enlarged and enhanced private sector role, the need to conform to African country plans that are themselves carefully vetted by Western-dominated international financial institutions, and the leveraging of maximum visibility and influence from relatively marginal resource commitments.

Indeed when future historians consider the global governance role of the G8 concert of the world's wealthiest and most powerful liberal democracies that bestrode the world stage in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, they would do well to consider its approach toward Africa. For the first decade of the new millennium, the G8 summits sustained an extraordinary level of focus on and engagement with the multiple challenges of this continent. Responding to the African governments' proposed New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), G8 governments produced a succession of agreements and initiatives, anchored by the 2002 Africa Action Plan and the 2005 Gleneagles declaration on Africa and development but extending considerably beyond them. These initiatives and engagements were framed by a motif of "partnership," understood selectively. In this regard, they were consistent with, and provided elite impetus for, global efforts toward a more comprehensive Third Way bargain for Africa, including the Aid Effectiveness Agenda anchored by the 2005 Paris Declaration, the 2005 Africa Strategy of the European Union (EU), and the US Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, among others. …

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