Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Fifth Report

South Africa and the New Partnership for Africa's Development


122. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NePAD) was officially launched at a meeting of African Heads of State and Government in Nigeria in October 2001. It had developed previously under a number of different names, including the New African Initiative (NAI) and the Millennium African Renaissance Programme (MAP).[158] From the outset, NePAD has aspired not to be simply another funding mechanism, but more an "agenda for change" within the continent.[159] NePAD's founding document states:

This New Partnership for Africa's Development is a pledge by African leaders, based on a common vision and a firm and shared conviction, that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and to place their countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development and, at the same time, to participate actively in the world economy and body politic. The Programme is anchored on the determination of Africans to extricate themselves and the continent from the malaise of underdevelopment and exclusion in a globalising world. ...

We are convinced that an historic opportunity presents itself to end the scourge of underdevelopment that afflicts Africa. The resources, including capital, technology and human skills, that are required to launch a global war on poverty and underdevelopment exist in abundance and are within our reach. What is required to mobilise these resources and to use them properly, is bold and imaginative leadership that is genuinely committed to a sustained human development effort and the eradication of poverty, as well as a new global partnership based on shared responsibility and mutual interest. ...

We will determine our own destiny and call on the rest of the world to complement our efforts.[160]

123. The stated aims of the programme are:

a) to eradicate poverty;

b) to place African countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development;

c) to halt the marginalisation of Africa in the globalisation process and enhance its full and beneficial integration into the global economy; and

d) to accelerate the empowerment of women.[161]

These ambitions will be achieved through a number of means, including: good governance, African ownership and leadership, partnership within and without the continent, regional and continental integration, and increased competitiveness of African countries and the continent. In July 2003, African leaders agreed that, as a reflection of the programme's 'African-ness', NePAD would be integrated into the newly-formed AU within the following two to three years.

124. South Africa, and President Thabo Mbeki in particular, has been at the forefront of NePAD's development, chairing its Steering Committee and the sub-committee on Peace and Security. South Africa also supplies NePAD's secretariat, which is currently based in Pretoria. The FCO described the country as "a founding nation" of NePAD, and stated that "President Mbeki has mobilised support for NePAD among African and international leaders."[162] In an article on NePAD, Mr James Hamill, of the University of Leicester similarly stressed President Mbeki's crucial contribution to NePAD:

The strong 'Africanist flavour of NePAD, with its emphasis on restoring African pride and responsibility, coupled with an astute grasp of global dynamics and the desire to position Africa within the international mainstream, perfectly captures the political philosophy of South African President Thabo Mbeki.[163]

African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)

125. One element of NePAD that sets it apart from many previous schemes is that progress towards the aspirations of NePAD by individual African countries will be monitored by peer review: the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). The mandate and purpose of the APRM are set out clearly in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by participating nations:

the mandate of the African Peer Review Mechanism is to ensure that the policies and practices of participating states conform to the agreed political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards contained in the Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance. ...

the primary purpose of the APRM is to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through sharing of experiences and reinforcement of successful and best practice, including identifying deficiencies and assessing the needs for capacity building.[164]

126. The reviews will be overseen and directed by a panel of seven "Eminent Persons"—Africans who have distinguished themselves in relevant fields. Only those countries who volunteer to undergo the process will be scrutinised under the APRM. To date, sixteen African nations have volunteered: Algeria; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Republic of Congo; Ethiopia; Gabon; Ghana; Kenya; Mali; Mauritius; Mozambique; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; South Africa; and Uganda.[165] Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius and Rwanda will be among the first countries to be reviewed.

Response of the United Kingdom and the G8

127. In its memorandum to this inquiry, the Foreign Office stated emphatically that:

the United Kingdom Government strongly supports NePAD. We recognise that NePAD is a long-term agenda requiring substantial engagement and political commitment.[166]

Like other members of the G8, the UK's response to NePAD is primarily channelled through the G8 Africa Action Plan.[167] This document was agreed at the G8 Summit in Kananaskis, Canada, in July 2002.[168] It welcomed NePAD as a "bold and clear-sighted vision of Africa's development," and agreed that it provided "an historic opportunity to overcome obstacles to development in Africa."[169]

128. While the G8 nations set out a range of responses to NePAD in areas such as peace and security, governance, trade, health and education, it is noteworthy that the Partnership was primarily seen by the member nations as:

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. African Leaders have personally directed its creation and implementation. They have formally undertaken to hold each other accountable for its achievement. They have emphasized good governance and human rights as necessary preconditions for Africa's recovery.[170]

Progress on the Action Plan was reviewed at the G8's next summit in Evian, in June 2003, and is due to be discussed again later this year at the Sea Island Summit, in the USA.[171]

129. As the FCO notes in its submission, the United Kingdom has been strongly involved both in drafting the G8's original response to NePAD and in ensuring that it remained on the Group's agenda for future meetings. Indeed many commentators, both inside and out of Africa, see the United Kingdom, and the Prime Minister in particular, as NePAD's principal 'champion' in the West.

What difference will NePAD make?

Value of NePAD

130. The evidence we have received for this inquiry reflects a wide range of views on NePAD, and the G8's response. ACTSA, in its written evidence, told us that it represented: "a unique opportunity for the leaders of the world's richest nations to turn their grand rhetoric into concrete change for poor people in Africa."[172] Mr James Hammill, in his article on NePAD, similarly believed that, at least initially, the scheme had encouraged "cautious optimism," in the developed and developing worlds, as it represented a much greater commitment from the richest countries toward Africa than previously shown. It was also "essentially an indigenous scheme formulated by African leaders themselves," far better than previous, "externally imposed, often paternalistic and certainly deeply resented 'solutions'."[173]

131. However, NePAD seems to suffer severely from being different things to different people (one of our witnesses used the simile of the "elephant being investigated by blind men"[174]). To African nations it is, arguably, seen as a way of securing much-needed development assistance, inward investment and better access to global markets. To the G8 it is seen as a way of achieving their principal objectives for the continent: better governance and improved respect for human rights. As Professor Simon observed:

Since its inception, NePAD has struggled both to establish effective structures for the achievement of its strategic objectives, and to combine the need to win donor support with the variety of alternative visions of African development that have the support of various governments."[175]

Importance of the APRM

132. In particular, much debate has focused on the viability and effectiveness of the APRM. As noted above, it was this innovative feature of NePAD that drew much attention from the G8, as a sign that African leaders were finally serious about 'putting their own house in order'. Indeed, Mr Mullin, in his oral evidence to us, went so far as to describe the "rigour" of the APRM as the "key test" for NePAD as far as the British Government was concerned.[176]

133. While G8 members have been stressing this element of the Partnership, though, the evidence presented to us suggests that African leaders have been growing less enthusiastic, stressing that the Mechanism is voluntary and steadily limiting its scope of scrutiny.[177] One memorandum stated, for example, that: "there is little doubt that it [NePAD] has met with resistance in much of Africa, where its good governance message is seen as a threat in some quarters." [178] The President of Senegal, Mr Abdoulaye Wade, was recently reported as calling into question the peer review mechanism. He apparently believes that it will be undermined by the length of time needed, the absence of objective norms and the lack of any sanctions to make countries comply.[179] As Mr Dowden told us, in his oral evidence:

[NePAD] will not do anything for the ones who do not want to change themselves. It is a key, but the individual countries have to turn that key in the lock.[180]

134. It has also been suggested to us that South Africa has contributed to confusion among donor states by arguing that the AU would now be responsible for political peer review, confining NePAD's APRM merely to the economic field. Dr Ian Taylor, of the University of Botswana, in his memorandum stated that:

Such a position contradicts both one of the main selling points of the NePAD and what Mbeki had postured previously. ... NePAD was sold to its Western partners on the basis that it would advance democracy, respect for human rights, peace and good governance and that such principles would be guided and monitored through the establishment of a 'peer review mechanism.' ... serious questions as to what exactly is the point of NePAD if all it is going to do is review economic progress in Africa are now being asked.[181]

He went on to argue that this apparent revision of the role of the APRM would result in the programme being seen merely a 'rubber stamp,' and that it has already led to a "palpable cooling off of the world's community for the NePAD."[182] This concern has been echoed by others.[183] This is unfortunate. Africa has to prove itself attractive to the world investor community at a time of intense competition.

135. A number of critics have highlighted the failure of NePAD, and South Africa in particular, to tackle its first serious challenge: Zimbabwe. Dr Cilliers stated that:

South Africa's kid glove handling of Zimbabwe's governing elite has served as a reality check for many of Africa's development partners in terms of their expectations of NePAD and prospects for the African Peer Review Mechanism.[184]

This view was echoed by Mr Jesmond Blumenfeld in his oral evidence:

NePAD is about improving good governance and the South African Government almost seems to be saying, 'Zimbabwe is such a special case we just cannot deal with that under NePAD, it is too complicated.'[185]

Another observer summed the situation up succinctly: "Africa can embrace the requirements and benefits of the NePAD programme, or it can embrace Mugabe, but it cannot embrace both."[186]

Response of the G8

136. Criticism has, however, also been levelled at the response of the G8 to NePAD. Professor Simon suggested that the 2003 G8 Evian Summit was:

felt to be disappointing by both sides. NePAD and the African communities were looking for some concrete evidence of G8 commitment ... and, vice-versa, they were looking for progress on peer review mechanism, but at the moment there is this kind of dancing around but nobody is prepared to take the first step and say, 'We are going forward.'[187]

137. ACTSA, in its oral and written evidence, went further. It warned against NePAD, and the APRM in particular, "being used as yet another form of conditionality, shaping African societies and economies for the benefit of the G8, instead of Africans."[188] Mr Fraser, of ACTSA, also told us that NePAD set out an, "ambitious challenge," to the EU and USA to reform the unfair trading conditions which prevent access to the developing world to overseas markets:

The interesting thing about the G8 response to NePAD is that it has attempted to ignore entirely that structural debate and to shift focus on to the issues which interest us.

He also went on to say:

The G8 has within its power to completely kill NEPAD off and I think it is doing a good job of it so far, because its response to the structural challenges has been so disappointing, on debt, on trade, and even on the promises it has made on aid or aid for AIDS specifically, it is either "No Comment" or it is an empty promise.[189]

These concerns were echoed in part by Mr Dowden. He highlighted the progress that had been made in improving governance in a number of African states (Ghana and Botswana), which were, he argued, not being recognised by the G8 as something that should be rewarded.[190]

138. Doubts were also raised about the level of commitment to NePAD from different members of the G8. Dr Steve Kibble told us, for example, that Americans had "more or less abandoned" NePAD.[191]

139. The Minister for Africa, Chris Mullin MP, recognised some of these doubts about the G8's response to NePAD:

I am sure there is possibly some concern that all members are not pulling in the same direction at the same speed. I think everyone is pulling in the same direction but not necessarily at the same speed.[192]

He did, however, stress that the Government, and especially the Prime Minister, remained "hopeful" of NePAD's prospects and was determined that "this potentially worthwhile initiative," should not be allowed to "drift into the sand."[193] He also stated that the Government intended to make full use of its forthcoming presidency of the G8 to "boost our commitment to Africa."[194]


140. Given the evidence that we have seen during this inquiry, we conclude that NePAD has the potential to deliver significant, and important, changes within Africa and to its relationship with the rest of the world. Both sides of the Partnership, though, need to understand fully both the challenges and the opportunities that it presents. African nations have to recognise that good governance and respect for human rights are central to their development prospects, and to how they are perceived by both foreign governments and potential private investors. The G8, in turn, needs to see beyond the confines of the peer review mechanism and recognise the progress that African nations have already made in delivering on their commitments.

141. We recommend that in partnership South Africa and the United Kingdom work together to ensure that it is not simply left to 'wither and die' as so many previous programmes have been. The British Government needs to impress upon South Africa, and its fellow AU members, the importance of a rigorous peer review mechanism for spreading good governance in the continent, and for attracting much-needed foreign investment. At the same time, it should use every opportunity, especially its forthcoming Presidencies of the G8 and the EU, to ensure that the developed world delivers on its commitment to support genuine African growth and development. Mutuality is the basis of the relationship.

158   For further details, see:  Back

159   IbidBack

160   NePAD Framework Document, October 2001, p 1, Back

161   "NePAD in Brief", Back

162   Ev 70, para 29. See also: Ev 109, para 2 [Cilliers]. Back

163   James Hamill, "Despots or Aid ", The World Today, vol 58 (6) (June 2002), p 17 Back

164   Memorandum of Understanding on the African Peer Review Mechanism, paras 6 and 8, Back

165   Angola recently indicated that it too wished to participate in the APRM (Q 216 [Mullin]) but it has yet to sign the Memorandum of Understanding. Back

166   Ev 71, para 38 Back

167   The other seven members of the G8 are: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States of America. Back

168   G8 Africa Action Plan, agreed at the G8 Summit, Kananaskis, Canada, on 27 June 2002, available at: Back

169   Ibid., para 1 Back

170   Ibid., para 3 Back

171   For further details, see: and Back

172   Ev 24, para 7 [ACTSA] Back

173   James Hamill, "Despots or Aid ", The World Today, vol 58 (6) (June 2002), p 17 Back

174   Q 90 [Dowden] Back

175   Ev 6 Back

176   Q 216 Back

177   See, for example: Ev 98 [Taylor]. Back

178   Ev 112 [Mills] Back

179   "Senegal's president questions 'peer reviews'", Financial Times, 29 November 2003 Back

180   Q 91 Back

181   Ev 98 Back

182   IbidBack

183   See, for example: Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills, "The Future of Africa: A New order in Sight?", Adelphi Papers 361 (November 2003), p55 Back

184   Ev 109 Back

185   Q 75 Back

186   James Hamill, "Despots or Aid?", The World Today, vol 58(6) (June 2002), p19 Back

187   Q 40 Back

188   Ev 24 Back

189   Q 79 Back

190   Q 95 Back

191   Q 90. See also: Q 90 [Dowden]; and Q 94 [Dowden]. Back

192   Q 219 Back

193   Q 218 Back

194   Q 219. The United Kingdom will act as President of the G8 in 2005. From July to December 2005, it will also hold the six-monthly rotating Presidency of the European Union. Back

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