This month (July, 2011) the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NePAD) completes ten years since it was set up by the African Union (AU). The underlying logic of this widely publicised and seemingly innovative initiative is: "African solutions to African problems".
Well, ten years have now elapsed and this is the time to make a sober assessment on NePAD and pass judgment whether it has been on the path to success or not.
From my perspective, the initiative, despite its intellectual appeal and clearly defined goals, has been a terrible failure; it has brought no substantive change to Africa in terms of transforming the continent's economies or improving the livelihoods of the mass of the African people -
which confirms the critics' view, upon the launch of NePAD, that the project was a "non-starter"
Many people across the continent were excited about this project which they saw as the beginning of a process towards self-reliance and economic independence.
The plan aroused new hopes about the future of Africa. Many thought that by applying "home-grown solutions" to its problems, the continent would be attempting, for the first time, to detach itself from the apron strings of the mother countries - the former colonial powers. Some critics, however, thought that NePAD was a stillborn project and, guided by past empirical experience, argued (convincingly) that it would remain good only on paper. They cited the failed previous attempts by the continental body (then called Organization of African Unity - OAU) to adopt a collective position, culminating, in 1980, in the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA).
This plan represented a milestone in the organisation's endeavours to seriously tackle the continent's fundamental socio-economic problems. It required governments to diversify their agricultural economies- essentially mono-based and fragile- and to raise the level of inter-African trade and investment with a view to: increasing agricultural and industrial production; making Africa food self-sufficient; and cutting the umbilical cord that sustained the Western countries' exploitation of the continent's resources and ensured our perpetual subservience to those countries through aid dependence.
In fact, the Lagos plan went as far as declaring 1980-1990 the "African Industrial Development Decade". But, regrettably, the plan never took off; no concrete action came of it! The main reason advanced by our leaders for the project's failure was that the Western donors refused to finance it! Then, in July 1989, without making a post-mortem of the LPA's failure so as to understand the real causes, the OAU heads of state and government at their summit in Addis Ababa came up with another equally impressive idea.
They resolved to formulate a harmonious and coherent strategy framework for implementing a "blue-print" prepared by the UN Economic Commission for Africa as a "last chance" for the continent to chart out its own alternative solution to the continuing mega economic crisis which was exacerbated by the World Bank's structural adjustment programmes (SAPs). But this imitative, too, aborted. And the excuse for its failure was the same: the rich countries did not show willingness to support it!
Now, we have NePAD which was adopted in July 2001. This project, which also caused great excitement among the African populace, has two prominent features: one economic and the other political. Its economic component is essentially about the need for Africa to achieve three fundamental goals.
One: to harness Africa's own resources for socio-economic development. Two: to move seriously toward regional integration in order to: attain rapid growth and sustainable development; eradicate wide-spread abject poverty; and inhibit the marginalisation of the continent in the globalisation process. And the last goal is to de-emphasise aid in favour of trade and investment.
The political aspect of NePAD, on the other hand, recognises that, while development assistance from donor countries (the so-called development partners) was critically essential in augmenting (not replacing) the continent's development efforts, it could be wasted unless African countries improved governance and fought vigorously and relentlessly against corruption. Hence, the emphasis on democracy and good governance as preconditions for economic development.
Well, ten years have now elapsed and this is the time to make a sober assessment on NePAD and pass judgment whether it has been on the path to success or not. From my perspective, the initiative, despite its intellectual appeal and clearly defined goals, has been a terrible failure; it has brought no substantive change to Africa in terms of transforming the continent's economies or improving the livelihoods of the mass of the African people - which confirms the critics' view, upon the launch of NePAD, that the project was a "non-starter".