New Partnership for African Development


Wednesday 1 May 2002, by Moussa TCHANGARI

This June, during the G8 summit in Kananaskis, Alberta, the seven richest countries in the world (and Russia) will address African development. In the lead-up to this important event, it’s a good time to take a closer look at NEPAD, the proposal that World Bank president James Wolfensohn judges to be of "enormous importance to everyone on the planet".

At a time when criticism of neoliberal globalization is increasingly widespread - in Africa, social movements are forming to demand serious reform - African leaders have chosen pan-Africanism as their slogan. It’s a clear attempt to legitimize a formula for political and economic integration which fails to address the enormous problems faced by their citizens.

Africans aren’t buying this sweet talk. NEPAD’s objective is not to break with neoliberalism, but to further integrate the continent in the current globalization process by increasing exports, leading to increased "competitiveness" of African countries. We can expect an enthusiastic response from the G8, who saw the documents even before Africa’s parliaments did. Despite the fact that the majority of Africans are not familiar with the content of NEPAD, or how it will affect their lives, proponents of the plan want to leave Alberta with an adopted action plan for Africa.

NEPAD only mentions problems related to peace, security, and good governance as obstacles to an influx of capital. There is nothing about the causes of the conflicts that are destroying some countries. There is no mention of the continual pillage of resources, by some countries and international corporations, in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, etc. There is silence on the social repercussions of Structural Adjustment Programmes which have engendered increased poverty - itself a source of even more insecurity and conflict.

Even worse, the plan does not propose any concrete measures concerning women’s rights. NEPAD’s backers are content to merely advocate increased access to schooling and training for girls, support for women farmers, and a commitment to a reduction in the mortality rate of pregnant women. Even though they form the majority of the population in many African countries, the only women who benefit from NEPAD are those who work as labourers. For many, beyond the fact that it was written by governments and economic experts firmly mired in neoliberal dogma, NEPAD also seems to be written by men, for men.

The document claims that "if Africa had the same basic infrastructure as developed countries, it would be in a more favourable position to focus on production and on improving productivity for international competition. The structural gap in infrastructure constitutes a very serious handicap to economic growth and poverty reduction. Improved infrastructure, including the cost and reliability of services, would benefit both Africa and the international community, which would be able to obtain African goods and services more cheaply." NEPAD does an excellent job of taking the concerns of the G8 and international financial institutions into account. Meanwhile, the work and concerns of African civil society are nowhere to be found.

Moussa Tchangari, Director of the Niger-based newspaper Alternative, and Alternatives’ partner.

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