VOL. NO: 48      DATE:
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NEPAD in the bin?
By Muritala Bakare

When the recently re-elected president of The Gambia, Yahyah Jammeh arrogantly described the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Nepad as Kneepad in 2002, emotions rose and critics, civil society organisations including few African heads of states frowned at his insinuative rejection of the new blueprint for Africa’s economic advancement. Even though there were no formal or official condemnations of his analysis, many felt his comment was derogatory at a time when the course was supposed to accrue some potent hope of delivering the continent from its socio-economic and political shambles. 

The Nepad blueprint endeavors to strategically bail the continent from its entangled genetic political and economical evils. Born out of the Millennium Africa Renaissance Programme, MARP, on October 23, 2001, Nepad seeks a ‘common vision and a firm and shared conviction’ by African leaders, anchoring the Programme ‘on the determination of Africans to extricate themselves and the continent from the malaise of underdevelopment and exclusion in a globalising world’ and states that ‘African peoples have begun to demonstrate their refusal to accept poor economic and political leadership’ (article 7). 

‘With reference to the painful historical experiences of the continent’s impoverishment, it postulates as a lesson that ‘Africans must not be a ward of benevolent guardians; rather they must be the architects of their own sustained upliftment.’ 

Anchored by Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Abdoulie Wade of Senegal, Ousnie Mubarak of Egypt and Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, Nepad preaches participatory governance, democracy, human rights, accountability, transparency and sustainable development. 

True, the Nepad vision though controversial, is ‘romantic’ and some, including civil society institutions and non-African experts agree that this is no doubt a lucid and determined goals that, if properly explored and reformed, would be the ‘Holy Grail’ for Africa and Africans but, “It needs a sophisticated and comprehensive system of coordination which should be regionally realistic and well-costed,” says Dr John Kakonge, a representative of the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP. Few economic experts however, do not totally concur with the initiative, claiming it’s an old wine in new bottles and just a donordriven project. But many who believe in it still remain faithful to the Nepad course. “We thought the failures of several projects like the Structural Adjustment Programmes initiated and monitored by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Bretton Woods sow no dividends, so why not give a home-grown initiative, that will only engage the internationals as contributor and not players, a try,” says Mallam Touray, an economist. Like Touray, many believe those international projects have influenced our debt burden, so they say yes! Alas an umpteen time has come to salvage ourselves from the ill-gotten political and economic hurricane that has saturated and flooded the continent for years. Today, it’s half a decade that the redeemed document was born, Nepad is yet to find its bearing. 

Despite the radiant and attractive goals of the document, African leaders fail to involve their own people-educating them on the true vision they are pursuing. This, among others, is part of the bullet point civil society organizations have been clamouring for.

Many complain of its lack of publicity as nearly three-quarter of the African populace has any idea or the role played by Nepad. At a forum that proceeded the bi-annual session of The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in Banjul, in 2003, members of the African civil society organizations lamented the way it is being driven. “My country which is one of the pioneers of the great idea has not even started a campaign in Egypt. I have not seen it published in the paper or advertised on TV," said Muhammed Gennedy. 

Apart from its lost ownership, the continent leaders, five years today remain unfocused on the programme that is said to be a saviour of our economies. In the face of political and economic crises, Nepad is in respite for now. Zimbabwe’s economy is in a mess and it is yet to breathe again. In Sudan, the Janjaweed, backed by the government are mounting serious offensive, and claiming innocent lives in the Southern Sudan region of Darfur. Rapes, killings amounted to crimes against humanity are being perpetrated daily in Darfur. Till date, the African Union is yet to find a lasting solution to the killings. Internal crises in Somalia, Ethiopia and Ivory Coast are other factors the Union is struggling to cope with. HIV/Aids, poverty, drought and famine are socio-economic problems yet to be tackled and there is no concrete evidence that these are receding. 

The sophistication and comprehensive system of coordination required by Nepad as said by Mr Kakonge still remain a daunting task for Africa’s leaders to explore. These anchormen now have serious rethink to do. Their exit from power tomorrow without a concrete agenda to follow would mean that the blueprint that has enjoyed great expectations and promises will now be left to wane. Should that be the case, Mr Jammeh would probably be sitting on his chair, nodding his head and wielding his customary native white attire, clinching to his sword and long bolded rosary with contentment that his insinuation on Nepad is accurate.


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