Africa And NEPAD: Are All Bases Covered?

By Chinua Akukwe

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

April 17, 2002

African leaders in 2001 developed the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) with the major objective of jumpstarting the continent's development in the 21st Century. NEPAD, African initiated and led, will orchestrate the continent's determined push to achieve a growth rate of 7 percent by 2015 through verifiable commitments to democracy, good governance and economic development. In addition, NEPAD is a vehicle for a re-energized relationship between Africa and the rich nations, principally the G-8 nations. Leaders of G-8 nations will engage African leaders on how to translate NEPAD into a veritable instrument for development during the June 2002 meeting in Canada.

As a touted blueprint for Africa's development, it is important to assess NEPAD regarding the current and future roles of key stakeholders in Africa's development. Is NEPAD as currently touted, a representative document and instrument for Africa's development? Are all stakeholders in the drivers' seat regarding NEPAD? These questions are important since the donor nations, in their review of NEPAD, will also ponder these questions. I briefly review why it is important to cover all bases, especially stakeholder issues regarding NEPAD:

1. Who owns NEPAD? This question is relevant since there is a price tag of $64 billion a year to meet commitments outlined in NEPAD. What are the architects of NEPAD prepared to give up (if any) in the quest for massive external assistance? Is there a contingency plan for moving on with NEPAD if the donor countries are not forthcoming with requested resources? This is not clearly stated in the NEPAD document. The recent divergence of opinion between G-8 nations and many powerful African countries regarding the Zimbabwean election "won" by President Mugabe is an indication of what lies ahead regarding the scope and direction of NEPAD.

2. Why was NEPAD a top-down evolutionary process? Ideas for NEPAD and its momentum were largely a high level political affair, often at the Heads of State level. The lack of substantial African civil society, academic and professional groups input in NEPAD may be viewed as a weakness in a very ambitious program that seeks to end "business as usual" in Africa.

3. How will NEPAD be implemented? Although NEPAD is touted as a strategic document, and there are general statements regarding the use of task forces and project teams, any seasoned management and development expert will like to see a reasonable implementation protocol, especially with a price tag of billions of dollars a year?

4. How will NEPAD mobilize the technical and financial resources of Africa? This is not an idle question since it is no secret that the nationals of African nations, including the most resource-challenged, are leading experts in science, development and finance in the West. Donor nations are aware of these experts.

5. What is the role of Africans living in the Diaspora in NEPAD? Africa's accelerated development will require a substantial and sustained involvement of its brethren in the West. African Americans, Blacks in Europe and Latin America could become critical players in an honest, dedicated effort to move Africa forward. For example, a buy-in of NEPAD by the Congressional Black Caucus in America can translate into action by the executive and legislative branches of government. In addition, a powerful relationship between Africa and the Caribbean could have multiplier effects in the areas of healthcare, education, social services, and stable democratic traditions.

6. What is role of Africanists in NEPAD? Africanists are often dedicated individuals of any nationality and ethnic group who have spent a lifetime of study and service on behalf of Africa. The various institutes and schools of African studies outside of Africa are important resources. Think tanks and advocacy groups on behalf of Africa represent another source of natural relationship. Peace Corps volunteers, staff of non-government organizations and Missionaries are important constituencies.

7. How does NEPAD specifically address the HIV/AIDS epidemic? It is widely believed that the HIV/AIDS epidemic represents a formidable development challenge to Africa's renaissance. However, stopping AIDS is currently not one of the high profile attention areas of NEPAD.

8. How will NEPAD address the needs of small-scale entrepreneurs in Africa? At the end of the day, Africa will likely trade, invent, and manage its way out poverty and economic despair rather than perpetual dependence on external assistance. Yet, the small-scale businesspersons, the engine room of market economy faces a litany of fatal obstacles in Africa. These obstacles include runaway interest rates, gyrating regulatory policies, onerous tax burdens, and inhospitable political climate. The government remains the largest and "most lucrative" industry in many parts of Africa.

9. What is the role of multilateral agencies in NEPAD? These agencies have mandates, resources and technical expertise, and are already on the ground. How will NEPAD change the existing dynamics of the relationship between the multilateral agencies and African nations in specific, verifiable terms? For example, how will NEPAD affect the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund regarding debt relief, macroeconomic strategies, and poverty alleviation efforts in Africa?

10. Finally, how does NEPAD translate into dividends in rural areas and shanties in urban centers? This may become the ultimate challenge of NEPAD. How to positively affect the daily rhythms of the market woman in Freetown, Lagos, Cairo, Mombassa or Soweto? How long will it take for NEPAD to trickle down to the subsistence farmer with a large family to support? How long will it take for NEPAD to assist a brilliant student who may have to end schooling prematurely because of exorbitant school fees? How long will take NEPAD to save the life of a pregnant mother that faces a likely death during childbirth?

NEPAD is a powerful attempt by African leaders to take charge of the continent's destiny. It is also a strong signal to donor nations that it can no longer be business as usual. However, despite the nobility of effort and good intentions, the devil is always in the details, and NEPAD will not be an exception. It may be necessary for African leaders to shore up their bases in what promises to be a difficult but potentially exhilarating journey to self-reliance.

About the author: Dr. Chinua Akukwe ( is a former Vice Chairman of the National Council for International Health (NCIH), Washington, DC now known as the Global Health Council, and currently serves on the Board of the Constituency for Africa, Washington, DC.

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