NEPAD and the pressing need to redefine its task

Ten years after NEPAD’s creation, no one seems to clearly say what exactly it has achieved so far. It is now high time the AU steps up its efforts in setting NEPAD’S mandate clear 

 Tesfalem Waldyes, Special to Addis Standard

When African Heads of State and governments come together for their twice-a-year rituals (one of it always in Addis Ababa, the headquarters of the African Union Commission – AUC) they bring in with them continental list of affairs for discussions: from regional cooperation to security – usually at presidential levels – to institutional initiatives by presidential advisors, diplomats and other high level delegates from around the world. The breakfasts, the lunches and dinners during such summits are not the usual meals – they are accompanies to the working presidents; and frequent side-line talks – formally round the table and informally over a cigarette and coffee in a corridor – between high level delegates are awash. In the past informal and side-line events like this have given birth to some exciting initiatives within the continent. A few of these initiatives have quickly disappeared while some have become success stories; still a few others have lingered around with no one able to define what exactly they are around for.  The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is one to reckon in the last category. 

 A complicated birth and confusing ten years 

The birth of NEPAD is complicated. When it finally came off in Oct. 2001, countless negotiations, working papers and policy initiatives and documents such as the Omega Plan (NAI) have preceded it. Some of the ideas that eventually paved ways for the creation of NEPAD were first discussed in 1999 between two former presidents and one serving president: Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, and Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria. Later on, shortly before it was created, NEPAD added two other decisive figures in to its list: former President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade and Ethiopia’s late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi; the latter went on dominating the whole show for the last ten years, so much so that following a month long disappearance from the public’s view, his illness was formally announced by Macky Sall of Senegal during the 27th meeting of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) held in July 2012 in Addis Ababa.

AUC chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and CEO of NEPAD Ibrahim Mayaki discussing during the launching of a book published to showcase the ten years achievements of NEPAD.

Be that as it may, in the ten years of its existence, NEPAD is probably the only institution whose clear mandates are as elusive as the jobs it claims to have accomplished so far.

A document by the South African government defines NEPAD as “a holistic, integrated sustainable development initiative for the economic and social revival of Africa involving a constructive partnership between Africa and the developed world,” but widely accepted belief of the word itself is that it is a technical implementation arm of the African Union; something of a role it has assumed when its original task, which many believed was to facilitate the transition from the OAU to the AU and fill the obvious political hole created during the process, came to an inconclusive end following the creation of the AU. For some people the word is heavily associated with the five “big men” of Africa who were behind its birth.  Understandably these pundits think with the gradual retreat from active politics of these men, for one reason or another, NEPAD’s already unclear mandate has gotten cloudier. “A lot of people share the confusion of what NEPAD is,” says Makda Getachew, an Ethiopian born policy analyst currently working for an international organization, “there seems to be a lack of universal understanding of what exactly it is.”

“When it was established, there was no doubt that there was a great degree of confusion,” admits Dr Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in an exclusive interview with this magazine.

 Making NEPAD useful

NEPAD’s official website defines the initiative as “a vision and strategic framework for Africa’s renewal.” It is claimed that its strategic framework document, which is prepared by the five African countries, is a “blueprint” for Africa’s development in the 21st century.

In an attempt to redefine its role ten years after it was first created the AU has decided to establish the NEPAD Agency during its 14th heads of state and governments annual summit held in Addis Ababa in February 2010. The decision helped the agency to replace the NEPAD Secretariat and integrate the NEPAD Agency into the structures of the AU.

Dr. Cilliers says “the vision of NEAPD today is to provide integrated framework that in actual effect cut across almost all the departments except peace and security and political affairs across the AU structures.”

Though the attempt to bring in NEPAD within the AU structures are still incomplete, including recruitment of its staffs on the AU’s payroll, there is a growing concern that the process has indistinctively overlapped the role of NEPAD with that of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), which are considered as the building blocks of the AU.

Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD planning and Coordination Agency, denies any such thing as overlapping of tasks. It “does not exist”, he told this magazine, “The AU through the AU Commission designs continental strategic frameworks. We go and work for the AUC at regional and national level. So it is not redundant because we take that mandate from the AUC and we go on the ground and implement.”

Among the AUC’s strategic frameworks, NEPAD has prioritized two sectors: agriculture and infrastructure, according to Dr. Mayaki, whose four years contract has just been renewed during the 28th meeting of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) on Jan. 26th 2013.  He says NEPAD has already launched its flagship projects to implement technical projects for Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) and the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA). CAADP is a project that plans to eliminate hunger in Africa by pursuing at least an annual agricultural growth rate of around 6%. So far 40 African countries have formally launched the implementation of CAADP and 23 have developed CAADP National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans. And PIDA is a multi-billion dollar initiative sponsored by donors, the AUC and the African Development Bank (AfDB). It is an initiative aimed at working to develop priority areas within regional and continental integrated infrastructure networks and services in four key sectors:  transport, energy, ICT and trans-boundary water.

Those who are close to NEPAD defend its frameworks and some of its achievements so far arguing it should not be judged based on the level of implementations for its programs registered so far as each country is solely responsible to facilitate NEPAD’s implementation of the programs. They also believe that NEPAD is the driving force behind African Agenda 2063, an agenda which is expected to show the trajectory where Africa wants to be in the next 50 years. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which has set minimum requirements to alleviate poverty by 2015, the African Agenda 2063 is anticipated to have a clear benchmark and targets for different sectors in each member states of the AU.

“The momentum NEPAD has created is difficult to quantify,” Dr. Cilliers said. Dr. Mayaki reinforced that when he said, “implementation is taking place.”  But he admitted there was lack of communication regarding NEPAD’s role in the continent. “The only thing is that we need to communicate more about it.”

Not only should NEPAD clearly communicate its own roles, the AU should unambiguously set what it is that the NEPAD, now on its payroll, should be responsible for. Representatives of donor agencies which are investing in millions to implement AU projects throughout the continent wish it to be that way, too. “So far NEPAD has given the stage for African heads of state and governments to dance; after a decade it is now time they either dismantle it or give it a clear mandate”, said a European diplomat working with the AU. He sees a great deal of potential for NEPAD, headquartered in South Africa,  to be the technical arm of the AU in implementing projects such as CAADP and PIDA, funded both by the AU and donors throughout the continent.


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