No Nepad without a real Renaissance

By Obediah Mazombwe

THE latest G8 summit, held at Evian France three weeks ago, was followed by the now routine groaning and moaning on the part of non-governmental organisations and some African heads of st

ate that the leaders of world’s richest nations had not done enough for Africa through Nepad.


The impression is created that the G8 would have been more supportive of African development efforts if they held a summit at which they pledged unlimited billions of dollars, US dollars, in support of Nepad.


The truth is that, besides the fact that the whole notion of Nepad is based on false premises (like Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo making promises about good governance and democracy, and the West insisting that African poverty can be eradicated through market forces), the major stakeholders do not have a common understanding of what this Nepad creature is.


The delusions continue even after Kananaskis when the G8 made it clear what their understanding of Nepad is, and what they see as their countries’ role in it.


The impression created by some, particularly the South African government, that Nepad is some form of agreement between the West and Africa, whereby the former will fund development projects in the latter, provided African governments “pledge” to stop pilfering from their national coffers and murdering their people who dare differ with them, is utterly misleading.


At Kananaskis, the G8, through their Africa Action Plan, made clear what they understood by Nepad: “(Nepad) is first and foremost, a pledge by African leaders to the people of Africa to consolidate democracy and sound economic management, and to promote peace, security and people-centred development.


“They (the African leaders) have emphasised good governance and human rights as necessary pre-conditions for Africa’s recovery – …we (the rich nations) each undertake to establish enhanced partnerships with African countries whose performance reflects Nepad commitments. Our partners will be selected on the basis of measured results.”


In other words no partnership exists at the outset merely by declaration. Actually, there will be no Nepad until individual G8 countries have “selected on the basis of measured results” which countries they would want to form partnerships with. Moreover, individual G8 countries will consider which of the interested African countries will be eligible for partnerships with them.


However, in doing so they will be informed by the “peer review mechanism” that Mbeki and company have “promised” to put into place. (Whether Mbeki and company will actually put such a mechanism in place and allow it to function effectively is a different matter altogether. But if Mbeki’s conduct over Zimbabwe is anything to go by, the chances are zilch.)


The G8 Africa Action Plan further states: “The peer-review process will inform our considerations of eligibility for enhanced partnerships. We will each make our own assessments in making these partnership decisions… We will not work with governments which disregard the interests and the dignity of their people.”


The crunch line in the above extract from the Africa Action Plan is: “We will not work with governments which disregard the interests and dignity of their people.”


That line automatically writes off Nepad membership for at least half of the African Union under their current regimes. They do much worse things to their people than simply disregard their interests and dignity.


Also very clear in the Africa Action Plan is the point that the G8 countries will not decide en-bloc to transfer resources to African nations to address the problems of under-development. Each of the G8 countries will decide who, when and how they want to partner African countries.


Moreover, the G8 countries expect the African countries themselves, either individually or collectively, to initiate the necessary actions to address African problems and demonstrate their commitmentand resolve to address the problems.


The G8 countries see themselves only coming in to match the African commitment. They say: “We will match their (the Africans’) commitment with a commitment on our part to promote peace and security in Africa, to boost expertise and capacity, to encourage trade and direct growth investment, and to provide more effective official development assistance.”


In spite of the availability of all these facts regarding the thinking of the rich nations, Thabo Mbeki, at an ILO conference in Geneva last week, wondered aloud why the rich countries were not transferring resources to sub-Saharan Africa in the same way the European Union was doing for its poorer members.


Last week Peter Takurambudde, the executive director of Human Rights Watch Africa, observed that in Zimbabwe “not only have the army and police personnel failed to protect people from human rights abuses, but they are now carrying out the abuses themselves”.


Yet when the US government, the strongest and most dominant member of the G8, from whom Mbeki expects support, proposed, in “peer-review” fashion, that President Mugabe step down and free and fair elections be held, the Zimbabwean government told the Americans very impolitely to “go to hell”.


Robert Mugabe did that in the full knowledge that the strongest government in sub-Saharan Africa had assured him through foreign minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, that South Africa would never condemn Mugabe or Zimbabwe. Yet Thabo Mbeki still expects support for Nepad from the Americans and the G8!


We must recognise two facts here. The first is that the West will not undertake massive transfers of resources until their very clear preconditions are met, and justifiably so.


The second fact, a corollary to the first, is that current African governments have some inherent shortcomings, which, even by their own admission, render them incapable of delivering the African people from their present predicament. These inherent weaknesses include endemic corruption and an insatiable lust for personal political power and wealth.


These are shortcomings which only the Africans themselves must get rid of, no one else can do it for them.


So unless there is a true African Renaissance, a “re-birth” of the African continent, Nepad and any similar projects are dead before they even start.


Dr Obediah Mazombwe is a lecturer in Languages, Literature and Media Studies at the Zimbabwe Open University.