The Failure of the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development

By Taylor, Ian | Contemporary Review, May 2003 | Go to article overview

The Failure of the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development


Taylor, Ian, Contemporary Review


THE New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) was launched in Abuja, Nigeria, on October 23, 2001. It was received with considerable enthusiasm in some quarters of the developed world as an African-led initiative that would provide the framework for promoting development in Africa in the new millennium. The Nepad was essentially a deal by which African leaders would promote good governance and human rights in return for increased flows of trade and investment (to the tune of sixty-four billion dollars) from the West. (See Contemporary Review, June 2002.)

Perhaps the most enthusiastic of Western leaders were Prime Minister Blair of the United Kingdom, and Prime Minister Chretien of Canada. Both went out on a limb to promote the Nepad, in the face of profound scepticism on the part of other major Western statesmen. However, eighteen months after the Nepad's launch, both Blair and Chretien must be feeling a sense of betrayal over the Nepad and the behaviour of its African promoters, particularly President Mbeki of South Africa and President Obasanjo of Nigeria. Both African leaders have effectively wasted the goodwill that surrounded the Nepad at its initial launch and have, it can be argued, subverted what was supposed to be a new start for Africa. Why this is so will be detailed below.

The Nepad itself has laudable goals, although the means by which it was to achieve sustainable development, level general continental-wide poverty and stop Africa's marginalisation was always open to question. To drive the achievement of these goals the Nepad set up five work teams, notably 'Peace and Security', headed by South Africa, with the African Union (AU); 'Economic and Corporate Governance' headed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); 'Infrastructure', led by Senegal in partnership with the African Development Bank (ADB); 'Agriculture and Market Access', under the remit of the AU; and 'Financial and Banking Standards', headed by the ADB in partnership with Nigeria (!)

The implementation process for achieving Nepad's goals was complex. A Heads of State Implementation Committee was to meet every four months, made up of fifteen countries. These fifteen, chosen for geographical representivity, were Cameroon, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe (central Africa); Ethiopia, Mauritius and Rwanda (eastern Africa); Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia (northern Africa); Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa (southern Africa); and Mali, Nigeria and Senegal (western Africa). This Committee directed a Steering Committee which was to meet once a month, made up of the five founding states of Nepad (Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa). A Secretariat, based in Pretoria and made up of five people under the head of Wiseman Nkuhlu, a South African, was to oversee day-to-day running of the plan. The Secretariat was also supposed to oversee the construction of business plans for a number of so-called 'priority areas'. These included economic and corporate governance such as the assessment of econ omic governance achievements and to include a peer review mechanism; political governance; infrastructure to include information and communication technology (ICT), water and sanitation, transport and energy sectors; agriculture and market access; human development to include health and diseases (such as HIVIAJDS), education and poverty eradication; the mobilisation of domestic savings and the maximisation of capital flows into Africa as well as a plan to reform aid and promote the idea of debt reduction for the continent.

The above programme, setting aside the conservative economic framework with which they are supposed to operate, appears quite reasonable -- a veritable motherhood and apple pie wish list in fact. However even such basic 'common sense' proposals have now seemingly fallen by the wayside.

That Nepad is now effectively dead can be in no doubt. Numerous conversations with diplomats from the main Western countries confirms this, with Nepad being variously described as an 'irrelevancy', a 'pipe dream' and as having been 'killed by Mugabe'. …

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