Africa's strategy

South African President Thabo Mbeki of the African National Congress, talks of the opportunities offered by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development

Issue 4, Volume 49, 2000

Sentiment is positive towards the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and there is widespread support among Africans for this plan. Clearly, this is not the first time Africans have come together for the renewal of this continent. Throughout the last century and even prior to this period, various Africans played their parts in organising nations and continents in support of African development. Political leaders, economists, doctors, philosophers and poets have contributed in analysing the African reality, putting forward programmes of action and dreaming of a great African future. The resultant initiatives have met at times with varying degrees of success and often with failure in a climate that was hostile to African unity and African prosperity, a reality characterised by Africans reduced to cheap labour and an Africa seen only as a source of raw materials for the developed world.

Yet it was under these circumstances that for instance, Edward Blyden, one of our foremost Pan-Africanists, promoted the idea of Africans taking possession of their lives, owning their future. In an address to the Liberian College in 1881, Blyden said the following:

"The African must advance by methods of his own. We must possess a power distinct from that of the European."

"We must show that we are able to go alone, to carve out our own way."

This dream of 1881, three years before Africa was carved up at the Berlin Conference, was not one that could be realised in the century that ensued, that saw the entrenchment of colonialism, racism and neo-colonialism, with African economies becoming dependent on the metropolitan countries and the destruction of the productive capacity of African peoples to work in their own interests and for their own gain.

The impoverishment of the African people resulted in battles for survival and for scarce resources among different groups. The conflicts we have experienced led to Africa being defined as a place of wars, disease, dictatorships and hunger with political leaders being unable to unite the people in practical and sustained ways behind common goals and objectives. Afro-pessimism pervaded to the extent that there are those who would say that we have forfeited our right as Africans to dream, to hope, to speak and to plan for a better life. There are those even now who will argue that the hopes for an African renaissance are ill-founded and that Africa cannot guarantee her own future.

Yet, clearly, the latter half of the twentieth century has seen a new attitude among Africans who now choose to see themselves as activists for change, who are reclaiming their place as equals among other humans, who walk a common continent and world proud of who they are and confident of their abilities for self-development.

This new confidence and this new African emerge out of an Africa that has largely moved to genuine independence and democracy, where the colonial system has been liquidated, where efforts are focused on the ending of conflicts and the attainment of peace and stability, where the consciousness exists that Africa’s economic and social upliftment is dependent on African unity and African peoples and countries working together to fortify themselves and insert themselves favourably in a world economy from which they have largely been excluded as global players.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development answers Blyden’s call for African ownership, African possession, and asserts that Africans can and must advance by methods of their own and indeed are able "to carve out our own way." It is premised on the recognition that Africa has an abundance of natural resources and people who have the capacity to be agents for change and so holds the key to her own development.

The New Partnership is unique in African history in that African leaders have pledged to cooperate and be accountable to one another and to their people in terms of the development strategy, plans and delivery of programmes. For the first time perhaps, an implementation strategy exists led by the leaders and not simply delegated to officials, so that genuine progress can be made.

Through the organising of NEPAD into an implementation committee, a steering committee and a secretariat, there is in place a clear leadership and management structure with the necessary professional expertise that is capable of dealing with political issues and technical issues competently and efficiently.

Moreover, we have established a governing structure and put Heads of State in charge, where leaders must account to their counterparts at summits and interact with their development partners in industrialised countries. There is also the overall accountability to the Organisation of African Unity, OAU, for the NEPAD initiative and the guidance that comes from the OAU on how to take forward this plan.

We have to highlight the approval of NEPAD by the OAU Heads of State and Government summit in Lusaka last year, followed by endorsement by African scholars. The interest of ordinary Africans in this initiative has also been awakened and this inculcates in everyone a consciousness that the NEPAD initiative exists ultimately to better the lives of the African people and thus must be accountable to them.

The interaction with the developed countries even prior to the formation of the Implementation Committee has resulted in NEPAD being high on the agenda at international gatherings, having received warm reception in July 2001 in Geneva at the UN ECOSOC Ministerial meeting, receiving endorsement from the G8 in Genoa who promptly appointed a Committee to work with NEPAD countries, receiving strong support from the EU in Brussels in October 2001 which included agreement to support infrastructure and capacity building.

NEPAD once more received attention at the 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in December of last year. In addition, the Nordic countries have committed themselves to supporting NEPAD, especially through the financing of specific priority projects. The Tokyo Agenda for action and the Beijing Declaration have also given clear support to African development, ensuring the participation of these regions in NEPAD processes.

Statements by President Bush in July last year to the World Bank have clearly articulated that there must be a rethinking of the financing of education and health in developing countries in the form of loans and this realisation is important for the human development aspects of NEPAD; while Prime Minister Tony Blair especially in the post September 11th period has come out in support of African Development

The intense work carried out by African heads of state has succeeded in generating hope and confidence in the future of our continent and in attaining acceptance of NEPAD as a policy framework informing the way they view African development.

This work takes on even more significance since we now have an urgent responsibility to develop implementable plans, to ensure that the excellent programmes and policies that exist on paper succeed in practice, that African technical expertise from within Africa and the diaspora is harnessed to convert those programmes and policies into practical and implementable programmes and projects, that the African people come to own these programmes as belonging to them.

NEPAD is an initiative of the Organisation for African Unity to which it annually shall report at the summits of the African Union. We are conscious that we are managing NEPAD on behalf of them and mindful that our work takes place within the principles of the OAU and to underpin the political union. For the African Union to succeed there must be in place a development programme that will accelerate economic integration and the reduction of poverty levels; thus the New Partnership as a process complements the activities towards the African Union. For the first time on this continent technical capacity is being mobilised around this initiative and to guarantee its success.

We must also acknowledge the support from global institutions for NEPAD and the importance we place upon sharing this experience with global partners and institutions.

This plan must look at the measures that Africa must take in detailed fashion:

- to ensure that a climate for economic growth is established throughout the continent;

- that security exists for the people of these countries;

- that measures for good governance are put in place through which our governments are accountable to their peoples;

- that best practices are agreed upon and put in place for economic and political governance.

We must do these things because we owe this to our people. Our ability to possess a reality and a future is dependent on the conditions existing for its success, on resources being utilised to attain these goals. Our plan would be incomplete if we were not to focus on areas of human development. In this regard we must focus on:

- our ability to deal with communicable diseases among other things;

- empowering our people through education;

- putting in place essential infrastructure for human development.

There is an urgent need for infrastructure investment so as to reduce the cost of doing business in Africa, among other things. In this way, we aim to reverse the increased marginalisation of the continent during the period of globalisation. Our economic development is also dependent on increasing our competitiveness in the world economy. We must produce concrete plans in these critical areas that are acceptable to all of us and viewed as implementable.

We will not have achieved all our goals if we do not focus on matters of trade and finance, with special attention to African access to markets and trade flows. We are faced with a global reality where the present financial architecture makes it difficult for developing countries especially in Africa to attract capital, where the debt burden partly stems from unequal relations.

We will have to work out concrete implementable plans that must influence the financing of development, and detailed programmes that must be promoted within Africa so that we mobilise more resources from ourselves and our own budgets and also negotiate for other sources with international institutions.

Clearly, our continent has resources that must be unleashed, but these will have to be coupled with the participation of our development partners in these processes, so that we use this programme to engage development partners in accepting our programmes as the basis for growth.

The World Summit for Sustainable Development to be held in Johannesburg in August affords us the opportunity to state our case, what we are doing, and what we think ought to be done in conjunction with our development partners and other countries of the world.

Only in these ways shall we be able to say that we are being proactive implementers of our own sustained development, that truly we are making steady advances in the realisation of an African renaissance. If we cannot unite through an initiative that can permanently reshape this continent and bring about sustained improvement in the lives of our people, then we would have lost an opportunity that will not arise for some time.

We have generated so much excitement, enthusiasm, and commitment for NEPAD, for Africa, for world development, that we dare not fail in our tasks.