Just hot air

NEPAD falls short on deliverables though it is heavy on promises

By Sanusha Naidu
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015

Just hot air

The New Partnership for Africa's Development (nepad) has become something of couture show for political and economic elite across the globe. At an intergovernmental and business level, nepad has guaranteed diplomatic license to those who circumnavigate the world attending summits and conferences in the disguise of addressing Africa's developmental challenges. At the civil society level, nepad has become the point from where Africa's second-generation leaders and their counterparts in the industrialised countries can be hauled up for failing to understand Africa's development crisis.

But what is it about nepad that invokes the romanticism that this is Africa's last real shot at addressing its developmental crisis? Is nepad the answer to Africa's development challenges? In one word, the answer is "no".

A realistic reading of the nepad document reveals that it could mean anything to everybody. This is reinforced by the meandering rhetoric of the document, which tries to say too much without saying anything.

For instance, there is a mention that aids (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome) has caused immense damage to the continent. But there is little more. In a similar vein, the mobilisation of capital flow is steeped in an ideological thinking that is devoid of any serious understanding of the structural distribution of power at a global level, nor how this influences the distribution of resources in the world economy. To assume that foreign direct investment (fdi) is suddenly going to avail itself to Africa because this is what is needed to sustain the objectives of nepad is nave, to say the least.

According to figures released by the International Monetary Fund (imf) in 2000, the continent accounted for only 2.3 per cent of the world stock of fdi; during the same period, only 0.7 per cent was new fdi inflows into Africa. What this demonstrates is that not only does Africa attract low levels of fdi, but that it continues to be a dark spot on the radar screens of most investors.

The lesson is simple; fdi is not the answer that nepad is looking for, nor is it the holy grail that will resolve Africa's development crises. What is to be extracted from fdi trends and patterns is that capital does not go where it does not want to go, and cannot be compelled to do so. This was amply demonstrated by the g8 in the meagre assistance of us $6 billion they offered.

The shortcomings of nepad's deliverables are many. Suffice to say that the partnership is couched in expectations that far exceed the realities. Moreover, the core of the document exudes a partnership that is more attractive to political and economic elites than to Africa's leaders and their citizenry. Some have argued that this partnership resembles a dependency relationship that undoubtedly commits Africa to more demands, while being polite and respectful to the industrialised countries in return for their spoils.

nepad, therefore, illustrates that Africa's second-generation of political leaders are falling into the same trap as the first, in that they continue to see Africa's economic rejuvenation within the narrow confines of a neo-liberal framework. This marginalizes the majority of Africa's people.

But if nepad is not an appropriate strategy for Africa's development, what is the way forward? To this end, two programmes -- Lagos Plan of Action and Africa's Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment -- provide the answer, although Africa's elite seem blind to their existence.

Sanusha Naidu is a research specialist with the Human Sciences Research Council in Durban, South Africa. These are her personal views

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