Vol.2 No.16, 22 July 2002

Multiple Perspectives on NEPAD and the AU

The African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) currently are in the focus of political and economic awareness in South Africa. The media and other forms of communication offer many conflicting views on these initiatives. From official sources NEPAD is hailed as the economic development initiative that will allow Africa to find its rightful and mutually profitable place in the global economy. The promise is that by offering open markets, curbing corruption and promoting social justice, South Africa and other Southern African nations will offer an attractive opportunity for foreign investment.

This approach is a response to the explicit view of the IMF and G8 nations that "the surest way to address the fundamental aspirations of the poorest countries is to draw them more fully into the global economy". These countries "should stay the course of structural reform and sound macro-economic policies". But there is also an implicit point of view that African nations have frittered away economic aid extended to them. It is pointed out that, through the Marshall Plan, Europe recovered rapidly after World War 2. The IMF and World Bank have based their economic policies on that experience, but it does not seem to have been transferable to different countries and different times. The reason for their enthusiasm is NEPAD's acceptance of the blame for past failures and its promise to put the South African economic house in order according to the prescriptions of the so-called Washington Consensus.

The views on African failure are not shared by some media sources and many NGOs and other CSOs (Civil Society Organisations). It is pointed out that the IMF has failed to accept any responsibility for the failure of key policies such as free trade, privatisation and labour market flexibility. These policies, which underpin NEPAD, have failed the empirical test of improving the lives of the vast majority of Africans. As is the case for the GEAR policy, there will be little trickle-down but plenty of trickle-up.

In the recently published African Civil Society Declaration on NEPAD, to which a wide range of NGOs have lent their support, statements are made to the effect that NEPAD

Most statements made in the African Civil Society Declaration on NEPAD are about what is wrong with the NEPAD initiative and what must be resisted in the current economic system. Although little is said about alternatives and plans of action or about human responsibilities, some constructive statements made are the following:

"we will focus our efforts on appropriate resource mobilisation, now legally and illegally outside of Africa, and relate all such resources to alternative development strategies based on collective self-reliance".

"we need to continue our efforts to create different types of local, regional and inter-regional trade and a different role for trade in our economies."

"we call upon all African people's organisations and movements to continue their longstanding efforts to produce sustainable, just and viable alternatives that will benefit all the people of Africa".


Perhaps the most important contribution by SANE is that it lifts the debate out of the realm of criticism of existing and proposed development strategies, and into policy alternatives to NEPAD. These alternative strategies are not only concerned with existing social, political and economic problems but also with long-term sustainability issues. The pattern of solutions offered is one based on the six pillars of the SANE programme (see SANE Views Vol.1, No.1) which are those of:

The implementation of these basic policies is dealt with in some of the contributions to be found on the SANE website and in particular in SANE Views. They provide a more viable, sustainable and people friendly alternative to the government's NEPAD, but also require much further research and development. And, of course, without change in personal consciousness and attitudes, real change cannot happen. SANE believes that such change is promoted when the social, political and economic circumstances are such that people can reflect and care beyond their backyard.

Aart Roukens de Lange
July 2002

Further Reading

Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC, 2002). http://aidc.org.za. African Civil Society Declaration on NEPAD.

Ben Turok (2002). The international response to the new partnership for Africa's development. New Agenda, Issue 6, 2nd Q 2002, pp125-134.

Roukens de Lange, A. [email protected]. E-mail communications and press cuttings.

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