International Briefs: NEPAD: A false start

Most African leaders greeted the public unveiling of NEPAD with great enthusiasm and optimism. But has it lived up to the desired expectations? Jeffrey Ndumo* argues that two years on, it has minimum success to show for it.

On July 9, 2002, the African Union (AU) was publicly launched at the ABSA rugby stadium in Durban, in front of a crowd of about 25 000 people. The AU, which replaces the Organisation of African Union (OAU), is tasked to implement the New Partnership for Africa 's Development (NEPAD). By then NEPAD was already one year old. The Lusaka summit had already approved it on July 2001.

What are the objectives?

According to a NEPAD document, its primary objectives are to:

Promote sustainable growth Reduce debt Reduce poverty and inequality in Africa by 50% by 2015; Attract substantial financial assistance (aid) Increase exports

…promoting sustainable growth, and reducing poverty?

NEPAD works on the assumption that deeper integration into the world economy will benefit the continent in many respects. It will result in economic growth and an increase in Africa's share of global trade. Employment will also increase while poverty and inequality will be reduced. From its inception, NEPAD projected an estimated growth rate of 4.2% during 2002/3 for Sub-Saharan Africa, more than twice the growth achieved from 1984 to 1993. Unfortunately, the continent only achieved a growth rate of 3.1% in 2002. So the targeted average gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 7% per annum for the next 15 years also runs the danger of not being met.

In turn this could undermine the goal of reducing poverty and inequality on the African continent.

…reducing debt?

Since the advent of globalisation embraced by NEPAD and the subsequent implementation of the programme, Africa's debt crisis has worsened. From 1980-2002, Sub-Saharan Africa's total foreign debt rose from $60 billion to $206 billion and the ratio of debt to GDP rose from 23% to 66%.

From 2001, Africa has repaid more than it receives in capital investment worldwide. In 1980, loan inflows of $9.6 billion were higher than the debt repayment outflow of $3.2 billion. But in 2002 only $3.2 billion flowed in. $9.8 billion was repaid. This left a net financial flow deficit of $6.2 billion.

…attracting financial assistance?

NEPAD aims to achieve economic growth through raising official development assistance (ODA) from OECD countries.

This has made Africans label it “a new begging bowl” for African leaders. But their begging bowl is still almost empty. In the G8 meeting at Kananakis, 2002 President Thabo Mbeki failed to secure the much-anticipated US$64 billion aid offer needed to run NEPAD for a year. The G8 could only extend a mere US$6 billion – way below what was required to kick-start the programme. This was a bad start.

…increasing exports

On the exporting front, Africa exported nearly 30% more in 2001 than it did in 1980. But the prices that it received for these exports have fallen by 40% over the same period.

NEPAD's other components

To achieve its vision and objectives, NEPAD is structured into two components. The first component sets out preconditions for sustainable development. These are:

peace and security; democracy and political governance; economic and corporate governance.

It also includes sub-regional and regional approaches to development. The second component includes building infrastructure, human resources, environment, technology and providing market access.

…good governance?

To ensure adherence to democracy and good corporate governance, African leaders have created the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). This is situated in Midrand, South Africa. Nonetheless, not all African leaders are supporting the APRM. A few – Sam Nujoma, Robert Mugabe – have rejected it.

They see its political review component intruding on their national sovereignty. Consequently, this has forced its proponents to change it from being ‘obligatory' to become ‘voluntary'. Joel Netshitenzhe, chief South African spokesperson, recently said that the NEPAD's APRM would now include political matters on a ‘voluntary basis' until such time as the structures of the AU were able to take them over.

Echoing a similar position, Thabo Mbeki, South African President said, “NEPAD was the AU socio-economic programme, and peer review arose out of those matters which are on the agenda of NEPAD, such as economic, financial management and budget policy…There was never any suggestion that we have a NEPAD Peer Review process that would conduct the work of the commission on human rights”.

Since then the APRM has side-stepped issues such as Morocco 's occupation of Spanish Sahara or repression in Zimbabwe and Swaziland . In addition, most African countries remain without a multi-party democracy and these include Swaziland , Ethiopia , Somalia , etc. Furthermore, the APRM has failed to stop the endless bloody civil wars in countries such as Sierra Leone , Sudan , Liberia , Ivory Coast , DRC and many more.


Algeria is responsible for co-ordinating the work of the human development sectoral working team. Egypt is in charge of co-ordinating market access and market diversification. NEPAD heads of state tasked the Abidjan-based African Development Bank with the responsibility to finance $200 million projects.

Other than stating that there would be 17 projects, these have not yet been identified nor implemented. The only project that NEPAD has implemented so far is the development of the Zambesi basin in Mozambique .

This area which is 1.32 million square km is earmarked to produce food crops, fruit, tea, cotton, tobacco, sugar cane, oil seeds and coconut palm. NEPAD has had a disappointing start in a continent ravaged by rising inequality and poverty. This is not good enough.

*Jeffrey Ndumo is Numsa's National Researcher


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