Président de la Commission de l’Union Africaine (depuis le 1er. février 2008)
Five years is a good time to pause and take stock. This is exactly what is planned for later this year.
However, in undertaking this very important exercise, it is crucial that we revisit the key principles and commitments that are the tenets of NEPAD. This is necessary in order to both re-affirm them and also to ensure that we have a common understanding of what NEPAD is about.
It is the underlying principles and commitments that give NEPAD its unique character and appeal, in particular the commitment to take ownership and responsibility for tackling challenges, such as :
resolution of conflicts
ending dictatorships and advancing democracy, human rights and good governance
eradicating poverty and communicable diseases - malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV and AIDS
strengthening African economies through adopting appropriate policies and accelerating regional integration through increased investment in regional infrastructure projects
changing the donor/recipient relationship with the developed countries into a true partnership based on the principles of mutual respect, equality and accountability.
It is the courage to acknowledge past errors and to champion ownership and responsibility that persuaded many sceptics to become staunch supporters of NEPAD both in Africa and internationally.
What has convinced a significant number of opinion makers and leaders across Africa and internationally is the strong leadership provided by the architects of NEPAD in resolving conflicts, strengthening the organs of the African Union, promoting democracy, human rights and good governance, introducing macro-economic and governance reforms, and engaging the developed countries on key issues, including debt cancellation, international trade negotiations and development assistance flows.
Some major achievements
Looking back, it is worth noting that, in the short space of five years, the African leaders have developed and adopted a new, comprehensive, holistic policy framework for African development that is supported by detailed indicative plans for all key socio-economic sectors.
After adoption by African stakeholders and institutions, the sectoral plans have been presented to development partners for support. Through intensive dialogue and strong leadership, the international community, including the private sector, have been persuaded to pledge their support for implementation of the programmes.
It is significant to note that the plans include priorities that development partners had been reluctant to support in the past — agriculture, regional infrastructure, science and technology, and higher education. However, through effective engagement and improved trust in the NEPAD leadership, the reluctance to support these African priorities has been prevailed upon.
Therefore, for the first time, Africa has its own development policy framework and indicative sectoral plans that cover priorities as determined by the African people themselves. The international community has pledged to support implementation of the priorities as defined by Africa.
This has been accomplished in less than five years. Bearing in mind the history of the continent and the complexities of developing and negotiating such frameworks, this is a highly significant achievement.
The second major achievement of NEPAD is the energising of African development stakeholders and institutions, such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), as well as international development agencies such as the World Bank group, European Union Commission, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), private business, government ministers, secretariats of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), trade unions and African professionals, all of whom have participated in the development of NEPAD programmes.
There were NEPAD workshops, seminars and conferences on a continuous basis across the continent and internationally, especially in the early years 2001-2003.
The third major achievement has been in focusing attention on positive developments in Africa through effective communication and advocacy.
The NEPAD architects used every opportunity to showcase progress in conflict resolution, the advancement of democracy through successful multiparty elections in an increasing number of countries, and the adoption and launch of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).
They also used private sector forums like the World Economic Forum (WEF) and supported the formation of NEPAD forums both in individual African countries and in the G8 countries, amongst others. This played a major role in changing perceptions about Africa and highlighting improving macro-economic management in an increasing number of countries.
The Commission for Africa Report confirms the success of the advocacy campaign. The report acknowledges the progress that the NEPAD champions have been highlighting over the last five years.
The APRM represents the strongest evidence of the resolve of NEPAD architects to advance democracy, human rights and good economic governance. Progress that is being made with the review further enhances the credibility and sustainability of the renewal process initiated by NEPAD.
The other very important achievement that is not well appreciated is the reversal in the decline of development assistance flows to Africa. During the 1990s, Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa was on the decline. A turnaround started only a few years ago but remained tentative until the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in June 2005.
We believe that Gleneagles has removed the tentativeness and placed programmed annual increases on a firm foundation. NEPAD played a major role in achieving this result. There were other interest groups advocating for the increases but there is no denying the contribution made by NEPAD and its leaders.
These are the most significant achievements of NEPAD since 2001. In line with the vision, they represent a paradigm shift. They are about approaching development differently - by emphasising African ownership and responsibility and shifting leadership of the preparation of development programmes from multilateral institutions to African stakeholders and institutions. They are about transforming the relationship with the developed countries.
Implementation of NEPAD programmes
Regarding implementation of NEPAD programmes and projects by national governments and RECs, the AfDB started accelerating the implementation of infrastructure projects with a regional focus as early as 2002. Details of projects implemented to date are available in the main report. The World Bank also became more involved. However, given the constraints faced by many African countries and regional economic communities, such as limited access to project preparation funding, progress remains unsatisfactory.
Integration of NEPAD programmes into national development plans is not at a satisfactory level. Since 2001, national governments have made commitments to integrate NEPAD policy frameworks and indicative plans into national development programmes and to increase budgetary allocation to key NEPAD priorities, however, progress remains slow.
At this point we should reemphasise that for implementation to progress, national governments must use the NEPAD indicative plans to expand national development programmes. This is an important step in ensuring that investment levels are scaled up to enable African countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and sustainable development.
NEPAD programmes provide frameworks for scaling up investment in high priority development sectors.
National governments are also responsible for sponsoring and promoting cross-border infrastructure projects. Without sponsorship by national governments, the secretariats of the RECs will not be able to move. Political leadership and championing of cross-border infrastructure projects remains a prerequisite for success.
Challenges of accelerating implementation
From the brief review of the first five years, it is quite clear that there was more active participation by stakeholders during the programme development phase in the first three years. The architects of NEPAD were also more actively involved in promoting NEPAD in Africa and internationally. As a result, African pessimism was beginning to be replaced by growing optimism about the future of the continent.
From around 2004 signs of growing impatience with the so-called slow pace of implementation started emerging. This coincided with the decline in programme preparation and advocacy activities and the shift to implementation by national government and the RECs.
As already indicated, implementation is being hindered by capacity constraints at national and REC levels. The severity of these constraints was not fully appreciated at the beginning. However, as they became evident, NEPAD started developing strategies for mitigating them.
The other major constraint that has impeded implementation up to now lies in the fact that multilateral institutions and development partners have well tested financing mechanisms designed for national projects, whereas NEPAD promotes essentially multi-country/regional projects. NEPAD has spent the last two years addressing the constraints around the sponsorship and promotion of multi-country projects on the one hand and negotiating mechanisms for financing multi-country projects with the multilateral development institutions and development partners on the other.
Progress has been made in that steps are being taken to strengthen the capacity of the secretariats of the RECs. In addition, a Project Preparation Facility has been established, as well as an Infrastructure Consortium for Africa, at the AfDB.
Critical actions going forward
1. Sustain and strengthen political leadership : Political leadership needs to be strengthened at both national and REC levels. Each REC must convene meetings of government ministers of infrastructure at least twice a year. The key item on the agenda for each of the meetings must be the review of implementation of NEPAD projects in priority sectors - energy, transport, ICT, water and agriculture. This will strengthen ownership and sponsorship of the projects by the countries.
2. Provide each REC with technical capacity to design and promote projects : Each REC must establish a regional infrastructure project design and promotion unit. The unit must take responsibility for co-ordinating the technical preparation of projects, securing agreements between participating countries and negotiating with the financiers.
To fulfil this role, the units must employ professionals with appropriate skills and experience. This would necessitate approaching leading investment banks for secondments. The AfDB should be approached to provide grant funding for these units for the first 18 months - thereafter to be financed through levies on projects.
These two actions would improve political leadership and sponsorship by countries as well as address the technical capacity constraints.
3. Finalise the establishment of the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa : The Consortium is a forum for joint action on infrastructure. It should focus on promoting joint actions on the key priorities that have been adopted by each REC. Above all it should mobilise financial and technical resources for regional infrastructure projects.
4. Unlock the funds allocated by the European Union Commission for regional development projects in Africa : This must be a joint initiative of the NEPAD Secretariat and individual REC. The European Union has allocated funds for regional development projects over the years that remain unutilised.
5. Launch a special initiative to accelerate the adoption and implementation of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) : Food security must remain a top priority. African ministers of agriculture adopted the programme more than three years ago and the development partners are very supportive.
However, in order to make progress, governments must prepare expanded national development plans that integrate CAADP, otherwise they will not be able to access additional support mobilised by NEPAD from the development partners.
6. Refocus the AfDB mandate on regional infrastructure inter-connectivity and food security : The provision of affordable, competitive infrastructure (energy, ICT, transport, and water and sanitation) is crucial to African development. Without resolving the cost of infrastructure services, Africa will never be competitive. Secondly, food security remains a major challenge.
Improving agricultural productivity is the key to poverty reduction and sustainable development. Therefore, the AfDB should be given a focused mandate with only two priorities, namely regional infrastructure interconnectivity and food security.
Project finance structuring has made great strides in the last 10 years. With a proper focus it should be possible for the AfDB to lead the structuring of appropriate project finance mechanisms that would be attractive to both public and private sector investors.
7. Integration of NEPAD activities into the AU Commission : This matter must be resolved by the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee (HSGIC) within the next 12 months. Given the fact that the AU Commission has not responded to the proposal made to the HSGIC by the Steering Committee during 2005, a process for finalising the matter must be agreed upon. It is critical that the programmes developed under NEPAD and the partnerships negotiated and the commitments made by both African governments and development partners be maintained.
In order to ensure a smooth transition from the current arrangements to a formalised structure it is critical that the employment contracts of key NEPAD Secretariat personnel be extended by at least one year. This would allow enough time for the HSGIC and the Chairman of the AU Commission to agree on appropriate institutional arrangements for the future.
In conclusion : the struggle continues
These are actions that need to be undertaken to accelerate implementation of NEPAD. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the vision and policy framework.
The constraints to implementation should not cause alarm and disillusion. They must be seen for what they are ; challenges that could not be fully appreciated until implementation started. This happens whenever an organisation moves from planning to implementation. Some issues only become clearer during implementation. This does not imply by any means that there is something fundamentally wrong with the vision and strategy ; it only means that there are challenges that were not foreseen.
Regarding the perceived waning of enthusiasm for NEPAD, this must come as no surprise. This continent has had many disappointments over the years and, as a result, there is a tendency to look outside for solutions. This is true at all levels (individuals, NGOs and governments). The fact that NEPAD maintains that progress is dependent mainly on our own actions causes discomfort.
The response by the architects of NEPAD and the African people who have faith in their own ability to defeat poverty and under development must be that the struggle continues.
The advocacy campaign must continue and the work on enhancing political leadership and technical capacity must be intensified.
Source : nepad news - june 30