By Gershom Ndhlovu
A few years ago, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was on everybody’s lips, more so among African presidents who even embarked on jaunts from one capital city to another proclaiming the new initiative which was to bring an end to the continent’s social and economic woes.
A few days ago, one of the architects of the same NEPAD, Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade declared it effectively dead. In other words, NEPAD has not lived up to its vision, mission and objectives, but rather only served as a meeting point for African heads of state.
NEPAD was meant to commit African leaders to promote democracy and good governance in return for increased Western investment, trade and debt relief, but President Wade said that it had proved no more than a talking shop."I've decided no longer to waste my time going to meetings where nothing gets done. It's very agreeable to meet among ourselves but it doesn't drive things forward," Wade said in an interview last week on West African TV channel Africable and quoted on Independent Online website, www.int.iol.co.za.
"Expenses adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on trips, on hotels. But not a single classroom has been built, not a single health centre completed. NEPAD has not done what it was set up for," he said.
NEPAD’s key objectives are to eradicate poverty, put African countries on a path of sustainable development and prevent Africa being marginalised in the process of globalisation.
But then, who can fault President Wade whose Omega Plan formed the genesis of NEPAD alongside South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki’s Millennium African Programme (MAP), and a couple of others?
One can understand the frustrations of the man who has since declared that the relationship between his country and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will no longer be that of borrower and lender, but simply a facilitator of economic development in his country.
President Wade says his country, and indeed by extension Africa, has a lot of natural resources for its people to wallow in poverty. Yet today, boatloads of Africans from almost all countries perilously float on the Atlantic Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea hoping to land on the shores of European countries for a better life when the continent can adequately provide for its peoples if only with a determined leadership not driven by kleptomania.
A key part of NEPAD was the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), under which governments were to open themselves up to scrutiny by a panel of African leaders. But so far, less than half of the 53 members of the African Union have signed up for the process.
This is in a continent where leaders can freely batter their opponents like in the case of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and in the case of Darfur in Sudan, a government can freely engage in genocide by Arabic citizens against Blacks while they all look on.
Nobody has the courage to question leaders such as Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi on the apparent racism perpetrated by Arabic citizens on Black Sub-Saharan Africans who, legally or otherwise, find their way into that country to seek jobs.
Not to rock each other’s boats, African leaders are still encumbered with the archaic diplomatic notion of not interfering in internal affairs of other sovereign nations on the continent.
Several months ago I wrote on this very forum how the attainment of the United States of Africa is a far-fetched dream for this and other reasons.
While still on this issue, I thought that President Mwanawasa on his recent visit to the UK could have taken advantage to meet the incoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown to discuss with him issues not only on Zambia but Africa as a whole.
Mr Brown, who has been Chancellor of the Exchequer for the last 10 years, is very passionate about Africa and an opportunity like that could have just been perfect to buoy NEPAD’s flagging fortunes.—firstname.lastname@example.org.