“Africa’s development dilemma” – Last & final part.

Africa's Potentials Abdullahi Boru


This last part of the three part article-series, “Africa’s development dilemma” is Abdullahi Borus last piece (picture on the left side), his conclusion thoughts regarding “Africa’s development dilemma” .


Abdullahi is a Kenyan native and is currently an intern at United Nations High Commission for the Refugees (UNHCR) in New York City, at the same time as he’s pursuing his studies at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs in New York. Candidate for Masters in International Affairs, International Security Policy. Has also been working with news production and feature articles in English and Swahili at the BBC East African Bureau, Uganda Radio Network, Guardian Newspaper as well as carrying through UN Millennium Campaign in the media in East Africa.

The final part of this long part series will focus on NEPAD, an African driven initiative meant at addressing some of the crisis in Africa.




NEPAD and African Development Agenda


“The NEPAD strategic framework document arises from a mandate given to the five initiating Heads of State (Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa) by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to develop an integrated socio-economic development framework for Africa. The 37th Summit of the OAU in July 2001 formally adopted the strategic framework document”[1]


“The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was born on October 23, 2001, in Abuja, Nigeria. The Implementation Committee of Heads of State, chaired by President Obasanjo of Nigeria adopted the revised NEPAD document (October 2001 edition) as the original text “embodying the philosophy, priorities and implementation modalities of the Initiative.” The name of the initiative, hitherto called the New African Initiative (NAI) was changed to NEPAD.”



Contests dominated the development discourse between the West and African countries, until NEPAD came on the scene.   While the West has persistently opposed other African development initiatives, NEPAD, seems to be warmly embraced.  The architect of NEPAD has even being invited to attend the G8 meeting. How different is NEPAD from other African led initiative that the West has embraced?  Has the West has all of a sudden had a change of heart and as a result determined to partner with African countries in order to have genuine development in Africa? Would NEPAD succeed in its objectives by re-orienting itself within the neoliberal development paradigm? Answers to these questions will constitute the next part of this article.



One of the emerging differences between NEPAD and other previous initiatives stems from the fact that NEPAD gladly embraces the neoliberal philosophies that the previous development initiatives have stringently opposed. No wonder the West has warmly welcomed NEPAD.  “We, the heads of States and Governments of eight major industrialized democracies and the Representative of the European Union, were meeting with African leaders at Kananaskis, welcome initiatives taken by African states in adopting the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD,) a bold, clear-sighted vision of Africa’s development.” [2] To achieve its stated objectives NEPAD locates itself within the fine locus of the neoliberal policies of less state-involvement in the business of running the government, reducing the role of government to that of a “watchman.”  Thus leaving development to be handled and financed by Western capitals.


To achieve the estimated 7 per cent annual growth rate needed to meet the IDGs – Particularly, the goal of reducing by half the proportion of Africans living in poverty by the year 2015 – Africa needs to fill an annual resource gap of 12 per cent of its GDP or US $64 billion. This will require increased domestic savings, as well as Improvements in the public revenue collection systems. However, the bulk of the needed resources will have to be obtained from outside the continent. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development focuses on debt reduction and overseas Development assistance (ODA) as complementary external resources required in the  Short to medium term and addresses private capital flows as a longer-term concern” – NEPAD



Entangling Africa’s economy within the global economy has been blamed as the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment.  Therefore NEPAD, by posturing towards globalization, in its current asymmetrical set up, where the advantage is skewed in favour of the West, will at best be counter-productive. This is a road well travelled, and its repercussion is the current status of Africa’s development. “According to Council for Development of Societal Science Research in Africa and Third World Network- Africa as cited in (Bond, 2005: 36) the main elements of the hostile global order includes, first, the fact that African economies are integrated into the global economy as exporters of primary commodities and importers of manufactured product leading to terms of trade losses…although NEPAD appears to be an African initiative and as such can be seen as a home grown blue print for Africa’s participation in the global economy , the global economy environment remains hostile and NEPAD does not deviate in principle from the structural adjustment program.”[3]


“The various partnerships between Africa and the industrialized countries on the one Hand, and multilateral institutions on the other, will be maintained. The partnerships in question include, among others, the UN.s New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s; the Africa-Europe Summit’s Cairo Plan of Action; the World 53 Bank-led Strategic Partnership with Africa; the IMF-led PRSPs; the Japan-led Tokyo Agenda for Action; the AGOA of the United States; and the ECA-led Global Compact with Africa. The objective is to rationalize these partnerships and to ensure that real benefits flow from them”[4]


One of the strategic weaknesses of NEPAD is the assumption that the West has somewhat changed heart and that and they will engage with Africans in a fair above the board style. However, the historical relationship between the West and Africa has always been one-sided, and always in favour of the West.  Unless the rules of engagement change and interaction is based on a symbiosis and fairness, regardless of the commitment and agreement, Africa is bound to lose. Alteration of the status quo is not what the West is interested in, however.  African leaders have limited options.  If they fail to accept an exogenous development agenda, chances are that the economic situation will worsen.  The alternative is for them to formulate their own development path, which they do not have the wherewithal to operationalize. The real test of NEPAD arrived during the Zimbabwe election which was deemed failed short of being free and fair. As a result Zimbabwe’s membership of Commonwealth was suspended was suspended. Despite posturing to enforce democratic standard in Africa, South African president Thabo Mbeki, failed to rein in Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe. Mbeki’s insistence of applying “quite diplomacy” in dealing with Mugabe eroded the confidence that the Zimbabwe’s issue will be dealt with robustly, in line with the standard normative democratic discipline that NEPAD espoused.


However, the mere fact that NEPAD is being driven by a neo-liberal development paradigm does not make it antithetical to development because development and neoliberals are not mutually exclusive.  I will dedicate the remaining part of the article to issues that NEPAD addresses that are central to the development of Africa.


The question of democratic governance, human rights, cooperate governance are issues that NEPAD addresses. Further, a fundamental tool in this is NEPAD’s instrument, Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). The operationalization of the APRM is based on the NEPAD Declaration on Democracy and Corporate Governance of June 2002 , which identifies four focal areas on governance, regarded as important  preconditions for development on the continent  These includes, Democracy and Political Governance, Economic Governance and Management , Corporate Governance, and Social Economic Development.  Undoubtedly, these are good building blocks for achievement of sustainable economic development, which is a radical departure previous African development initiative which tends to blame everything on the exogenous agents. What’s more, the process of being subjected to APRM is voluntary – however, this is beyond the scope of this article.


The bane of Africa’s underdevelopment, exogenous factors notwithstanding, has been its politics. Post-colonial alienation of people from the development discourse is a carry-over from the colonial government, which the post-colonial African elites have perfected. “The African elite marginalized the African role in the development of Africa by their politics. When the elite succeeded the colonial regime, they chose to inherit the colonial system rather than transform it in accordance to with the democratic aspiration.” [5]


According to class lecture, historically, all development projects have been nationalistic in nature; however, in Africa the states seemed to have abdicated their role of development to metropolitan West.  This in turn, has bred the culture of dependency, where African elites do not think about development since they have outsourced it.  The West, as a result has imposed on the African political elites, conditions for being their development agents. NEPAD emerged in order to address some of the leadership crises that had been in place by subjecting Africa leadership to some set of principles. Studies have shown a positive correlation between good institutions and development. “There is a direct correlation between bad governance and famines, for example, in Africa. In other words, those countries frequently suffering from famines in Africa tend not to have good governance. Third, good governance can promote sustainable development by empowering citizens to influence policies that promote growth and prosperity and reflect their priorities. Y. Feng has also empirically demonstrated that good governance does matter for national economic growth and development. “In particular, a political system characterized by freedom and stability is best suited to promoting a growth-oriented economic agenda” (Feng, 295). In addition, R. Alence has empirically shown that the effects of governance on national income and economic performance in Africa are large and statistically robust. Democratic institutions, for example, were found to systematically enhance the performance of African states as agents of development by, among other things, countering temptations for politically opportunistic behaviour—such as economically incoherent policies, ineffective implementation, and the abuse of public resources for private gain relative to the provision of welfare-enhancing public goods—that is economically  damaging (Alence).[6]



Over four decades ago, since it attained its independence, despite experimenting with various development agenda, one thing in Africa has remained constant- Africa is not out of the wood yet. According to the World Bank the number of people living in poverty in Africa has been on the increase. Despite the stated commitments of the World Bank, the G-8 and other donors to poverty reduction and sustainable development in Africa, the number of Africans living in poverty is increasing. Today, over half of the continent’s 750 million people subsist on less than one dollar a day – nearly twice as many as a quarter century ago – and 34 of the world’s 48 poorest countries are found in Africa. Further, UNAIDS reports that the proportion of people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa is frightening, it estimates that 1.9 million people were newly infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2007, bringing to 22 million the number of people living with HIV. Two thirds (67%) of the global total of 32.9 million people with HIV live in this region, and three quarters (75%) of all AIDS deaths in 2007 occurred there. The debate right now should now be focused on efforts that are geared towards lifting these numbers of people from the perpetual poverty trap; the plan can be exogenous or endogenous.




Abdullahi Boru

December 2009.

Africa’s Potential – Columbia University, New York City.

[1] http://www.nepad.org/2005/files/inbrief.php

[2] Diescho, Joseph, Understanding the New Partnership of Africa’s Development , page 21-22

[3] Shale Sofonea , Critical analysis of NEPAD as a a framework of Africa’s development , page 80

[4] NEPAD docs, 0age 52-3

[5] Claude, Ake , Democracy and Development in Africa’s, page 116

[6] Ronald Kempe, Towards Good Governance and Sustainable Development: The African Peer Review Mechanism

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3 Responses to ““Africa’s development dilemma” – Last & final part.”

  1. Deniz Kellecioglu says:

    January 5th, 2010 at 15:12

    NEPAD is an elitist agenda, formulated to get more aid and capital from western pockets to African elitist. Today, 9 years after its publication, it is severely irrelevant. Also, the author should take a look at the conclusion, which is not one. Instead it is a count of certain data.

  2. Abdullahi says:

    January 15th, 2010 at 14:50

    256 7040 18 165

    Thank you so much for taking your time and reading some of my thoughts about the African situation, I appreciate your effort. However, we must realize that any policy effort whether political, economic or social, for most part, is elite driven. Historically, the elite are the one who take up the initiative and articulate it and then the common people in whose name most people fight will follow latter. And the question of elite’s manipulation of the common man is not limited only to Africa, the recent war in Iraq was an elite project in the States and the Blair sold it to the UK , and the rest is history. You’re right that in part Nepad was meant to attract the funding from the West. However, there are other mechanisms through which Nepad is holding some of these countries accountable, like the Peer Review Mechanism, a sort of “credit rating” if you will. If the article was read in whole I was not a friend of Nepad, ‘ntangling Africa’s economy within the global economy has been blamed as the cause of Africa’s under-development. Therefore NEPAD, by posturing towards globalization, in its current asymmetrical set up, where the advantage is skewed in favour of the West, will at best be counter-productive. This is a road well travelled, and its repercussion is the current status of Africa’s development”. Finally, the conclusion at the end is the conclusion for the three parts series of the articles and not only the Nepad part.
    Thank you.

  3. Kulmicha Bulyar says:

    January 27th, 2010 at 11:46

    Thank you for bringing to our attention that NEPAD must come up with clear roadmaps to deal with the problems bedeviling Africa. But telling the leaders of NEPAD on the problems facing Africa is like piercing their hearts with a poisoned arrow. I concede that Africa is synonymous with poverty but we have poor leadership to blame for these.Infact one of the commonest manifestation of underdevelopment is the tendency of our leaders to leave in a world of make believe and unrealistic expectation. Look at our poor infrastracture, our corrupt systems if you need water you sink your own borehole. One of these fine days we will be forced to build post office to send letters.
    Finally I just want to tell you, controversy and NEPAD it seems are not strange bedfellows I stand to be corrected! When will NEPAD ever flex its muscles and work on culprits like Mugabe .I hope that day will come.
    The essay for sure has been a well researched on. You effectively employed the hook and return method to grab the attention of you readers. I salute you for these. However your punches have been too light.I thought you would have punched holes on the whole system of NEPAD.Again, I salute you because you viewed everything with a neutral eye. I have not come through an instance where you injected your personal opinion. Thanks and I am looking forward for more articles by you.

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