Fri Aug 23, 2002 08:23
(Presentation to AfricaTalks.org at Legon, Aug. 14, 2002)
NOTES ON THE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS OF THE
NEW PARTNERSHIP FOR AFRICA'S DEVELOPMENT (NEPAD)
By Rod Alence
Department of International Relations
University of the Witwatersrand
Johannesburg, South Africa
**These notes are a preliminary record of some thoughts on NEPAD for presentation at Africa Talks in Ghana, 14 August 2002**
The past two years or so have seen the initiative now known as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) emerge as a major item on the global development agenda -- and as a possible framework to orient African responses to the challenges posed by economic globalisation. Previous regional economic initiatives -- usually informed by some variant of the notion of 'collective self-reliance' -- have been widely seen as ambitious in their aims yet modest in their outcomes (Lyakurwa and others 1997). Against this backdrop, the attention NEPAD has attracted may seem surprising. For example, when the IMF's managing director Horst Kõhler recently visited Accra, he expressed the view that 'the elements of NEPAD add up to a consistent strategy and define the right priorities. The IMF -- and I also know the World Bank -- is committed to support NEPAD wholeheartedly' (Kõhler 2002). And even after the G8 industrialised countries agreed to an action plan that fell well short of NEPAD's funding targets, K. Y. Amoako, the executive secretary of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa, told the OAU council of ministers, 'All of us must be in it for the long haul. It is our plan and we must make it work' (Amoako 2002).
These notes examine NEPAD's significance in the longer-term context of African regional economic initiatives. I give a brief overview of where NEPAD fits relative to previous developments -- in particular, the Bretton Woods institutions' evolving liberal approach to African development. However, I think it is also useful to try to imagine looking back on NEPAD's emergence from ten years in the future and assessing its significance. The exercise is not so much to predict whether NEPAD will be seen to have succeeded or failed in achieving its objectives. Rather, the question is about how and to what extent NEPAD represents an innovation in Africa's regional approach to pressing developmental challenges.
Although much of the public debate so far has focused on NEPAD's economic content (including its explicit endorsement of 'democracy and governance' standards), I argue hat NEPAD's main significance is in its attempt to restructure relationships between African states and the international donor community. My argument has two components. First, I show that though some of NEPAD's economic features are controversial, most proponents and opponents would agree that their content is not especially innovative. NEPAD does not stray far from contemporary liberal views about African development. Second, I argue that NEPAD is innovative mainly in its blueprint for restructuring institutionalised relationships between African states and the donor community. NEPAD's key element here is the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) -- envisioned as a 'self-monitoring mechanism' that African Union member states are eligible to join. The APRM is to be charged with monitoring and enforcing compliance with NEPAD norms on political, economic, and corporate governance. If successful, it would alter the hierarchical bilateral relationships individual states and donors -- inserting intervening African regional institutions that would 'deliver' credible compliance with governance norms, in return for increased financial inflows and greater influence over the design and prioritisation of donor-financed development programs and projects.
NEPAD is a work in progress -- an ambitious work in the very early stages of progress -- and it faces very difficult challenges. Much has been made of NEPAD's brining Africa into (or at least into the vicinity of) internationally dominant liberal ideas about economic development. This stance will continue to be contentious -- as shown by the recent proliferation of civil society and intellectual criticism of NEPAD within Africa. My suspicion is, however, that the trajectory of this debate will not determine whether NEPAD sinks or swims. The economic debate will (and should) continue with or without NEPAD. Where I see the main challenge to NEPAD emerging is from the member states themselves. The APRM requires members to accept what will be seen as highly intrusive reviews of their domestic affairs. Will African states willingly expose themselves to such reviews? Will APRM reviewers report non-compliance even when such a finding is politically uncomfortable? And will member states impose punishment firmly in these situations? The scenario surrounding the Zimbabwean elections earlier this year is not exactly analogous to a prospective APRM scenario, since the government did not volunteer to subject its domestic governance to external scrutiny. Still, Zimbabwe illustrates the kinds of political dilemmas the APRM will face in attempting to enforce governance standards. In sum, I suspect that NEPAD's challenges -- like its significance -- lie more in inducing member states to comply with NEPAD's own rules than in a possible escalation of criticism of its economic content.
The rest of these notes proceed as follows. First, I give a brief overview of NEPAD's emergence, locating it in the domestic political and economic context of post-apartheid South Africa. Second, I describe how NEPAD 'fits' relative to evolving liberal thinking about African development. I argue that NEPAD aims to institutionalise commitments to governance norms that for at least the past five to ten years have been central to liberal approaches to African development, but which have largely fallen outside the effective scope of explicit donor conditionality. Third, I discuss how NEPAD aims to restructure relationships between African states and international donors -- and I explain why I believe that NEPAD is most innovative in this 'international relations' dimension, and that it is also here that NEPAD's success or failure will be determined.
The core NEPAD document was officially released in October 2001 in Abuja, but it had existed in similar forms earlier. NEPAD's origins can be traced unambiguously to South African president Thabo Mbeki's 'Millennium Africa Programme' (MAP), which itself was developed as the economic framework for Mbeki's idea of an 'African renaissance' (Ajulu 2001). Meanwhile, Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade was producing his own 'Omega plan,' which had a similar emphasis on strengthening the link between external financial assistance and the development of Africa's economic capacity. To project a more unified vision to the rest of the world, MAP and Omega were merged into a document called the New African Initiative (NAI). The reason for the subsequent renaming of the NAI as the New Partnership for Africa's Development is unclear, but the fact that the announcement was in Abuja suggests that it may have been intended to signal Nigeria's commitment to the initiative.
The NEPAD document emphasises the importance of economic development and poverty reduction as central objectives, and it advocates an outward-looking economic strategy anchored in the principle of African self-help. The first paragraph explains that NEPAD is
a pledge by African leaders, based on a common vision and firm and shared conviction, that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and place their countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development, and, at the same time, to participate actively in the world economy and body politic. The Programme is anchored in the determination of Africans to extricate themselves and the continent from the malaise of underdevelopment and exclusion in a globalising world (NEPAD 2001, 1).
Notably, this crucial extract portrays Africa's main problem not as economic globalisation, but as being left behind in a globalising world. It also highlights the importance of African initiative in improving the situation. This combination of self-help and outward-looking development breaks with common conceptions of African development that associate self-help with inward-looking strategies of economic self-reliance (national or collective), and that associate outward-looking development with external dependence or underdevelopment.
The NEPAD programme of action is divided into several clusters, which are subdivided into smaller themes. The first cluster is 'peace, security, democracy, and governance,' which is defined broadly to include factors such as the pursuit of sound macroeconomic policies. The second is titled 'sectoral priorities' and includes items as diverse as infrastructure, human resource development, and agriculture. The third and final cluster is 'mobilising resources' and focuses on expanding public and private capital inflows, gaining better access to industrialised markets, and pursuing debt relief. The program of action as a whole is short on practical details and clear prioritisation (see Kanbur 2002), although the problem of detail is being addressed by a steady stream of supporting documentation arriving on the NEPAD website (<>), which is run out of the NEPAD secretariat in South Africa.
In understanding NEPAD's emergence, it is helpful to remember that the process has been driven by postapartheid South Africa in its first major effort to take a leadership role in continental affairs. South Africa has struggled to define that role (Gelb 2001). On one hand, as Sub-Saharan Africa's leading economic and military power -- and possessing a reasonably stable domestic political order -- international relations theory suggests that South Africa is uniquely well positioned to promote peace, security, and economic openness throughout the region. On the other hand, the country's history of isolation stands as an obstacle to the extension of South African leadership. NEPAD is an attempt to overcome this obstacle, but at the same time its South African origins (along with changing global conditions) help explain why NEPAD looks so different from previous generations of African regional economic initiatives.
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