Chapter

3 Keynote Address

Author(s):
Saleh Nsouli
Published Date:
September 2004
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Author(s)
Abdoulaye Wade

This high-level seminar on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) deals with an especially topical issue at a time when the courageous people of Africa are making enormous sacrifices to free their continent from the clutches of chronic underdevelopment and reap the benefits of globalization. This event is a tangible manifestation of the support for NEPAD that the IMF, the African Development Bank, the World Bank, and other Joint Africa Institute sponsors have all demonstrated.

The question remains, however, what exactly is NEPAD? What are its goals? Where do we stand in regard to NEPAD’s development?

NEPAD reflects a new approach, based on a long-term view of Africa’s development process, guided by the principle of ownership of economic policies by the African people. NEPAD represents a quest for a new type of partnership between Africa and the international community, and in particular, a commitment to the mutual design and implementation of a set of priorities identified by African policymakers.

The objectives of NEPAD are in step with the established international development objectives:

  • Over the next 15 years, achieve average GDP growth of over 7 percent.

  • By 2015, reduce by half the percentage of people living in extreme poverty.

  • By 2015, enroll all children old enough to attend primary school.

  • By 2005, move toward gender equality and remove gender disparities in elementary- and secondary-school enrollment.

  • By 2015, reduce infant and post-infant mortality rates by two-thirds.

  • By 2015, provide access to reproductive health services for all who need them.

  • By 2005, implement regional strategies for sustainable development compatible with the preservation—by 2015—of ecosystems and ecological resources.

NEPAD’s operations reflect an action program that identifies activities to be undertaken in the short, medium, and long terms. These actions fall into two major categories. The first involves satisfying the essential requirements for sustainable development through efforts to promote peace and security, democracy and good governance—including economic and corporate governance—and human rights. The second entails taking a regional and continent-wide approach to strengthening Africa’s capacities, focusing on the following sectoral priorities: infrastructures in all sectors, including new information technologies; human resources (education, health, and loss of intellectual capital); agriculture; environment; culture; and science and technology.

Within each sector, the aim is to bridge rapidly the gap between Africa and the developed countries in order to put the economies of Africa on an equal footing with those of their competitors, so that they can compete internationally and participate meaningfully in the globalization process.

Five key regions have been identified: West Africa, North Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa. NEPAD’s assessments of needs (in physical and in value terms) are still approximate. NEPAD is exploring two approaches to financing its action program:

  • First, mobilize more of Africa’s internal resources while simultaneously attracting foreign private capital. Naturally, measures involving private capital flows should be viewed from a long-term perspective. In the short and medium terms, efforts will also focus on official development assistance (ODA) and on debt, with the aim of obtaining debt relief on a scale that exceeds current levels.

  • Second, expand the access of African products to international markets.

The operative principle for the assessment of financial needs is to carry out that assessment at the national level, then at the subregional level, and lastly at the continent-wide level.

With respect to the institutional framework for NEPAD, a committee of heads of state has been created to oversee the implementation of this new initiative. This committee is composed of the five founding heads of state of NEPAD—namely Presidents Thabo Mbeki, Abdelaziz Boutefika, Olusegun Obasanjo, Hosny Mubarak, and myself—as well as 10 other heads of state (two in each region). These membership arrangements are particularly important since they attest to the commitment of Africa’s highest authorities and ensure that NEPAD will have substantial political and institutional backing.

Since the adoption of the New Africa Initiative at the summit of heads of state of the Organization of African Unity, in Lusaka, Zambia, in July 2001, major outreach efforts have taken place. We have worked to build the support of ordinary people and economic agents in Africa and elsewhere, as well as the region’s international development partners, and to rally them around this new approach to development in Africa. The original impetus came from the countries themselves, both within Africa, on the occasion of the summits of heads of state and government, and outside Africa, at the summits of the Group of Eight leaders and other bilateral meetings. A second milestone in launching the New Africa Initiative was the Dakar conference of April 15–17, 2002. The theme of this conference, which brought together African heads of state and representatives of the African and international private sectors, was the role of the private sector in NEPAD financing.

A further meeting of public and private sector representatives is scheduled for January 2003 in Dakar. This Dakar meeting will highlight the arrival of a third type of partner. This is the financial sector—specifically, one of its most influential branches, namely the multilateral international financing institutions that play a major catalytic role within the international financial community.

The African heads of state who are members of the NEPAD implementation committee met in Abuja, Nigeria, on November 2, 2002, to discuss a number of issues, including the establishment of an African mechanism to assess and monitor progress in achieving compliance with generally accepted standards for political, economic, and corporate governance. This meeting and the decisions it adopted plainly reflect the African nations’ determination to move from the NEPAD design and outreach phase to the action phase.

This will provide the necessary background for your work in this seminar. In recent years, with socioeconomic problems worsening in various regions of the world—evidenced in particular by the spread of poverty—and with the least advanced countries falling farther and farther behind, international conferences under United Nations auspices have been organized to urge the international community to address these issues. These meetings have included the Brussels Conference on Least Developed Countries, the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. Participants at these conferences discussed a number of topics that are also featured in the agenda for this seminar, although a closer look reveals that they confined themselves to general recommendations.

The seminar should therefore focus on identifying and preparing strategic recommendations tailored to the specific conditions in Africa. Having glanced at the agenda for these meetings, I can say that with our distinguished guests—and the wealth of expertise they bring to the task—we can expect an exceptionally high standard in the discussions and assessments of the challenges and operational issues connected with the implementation of NEPAD.

In closing, I would like to offer some comments on a number of matters.

Development financing. On this topic, I would like to refer to the theme of a session entitled “What Can the IMF Do?” It has long been my conviction that the international financial community must take an innovative approach to development financing if it is to address what I call the credit/aid double bind. With particular reference to the financing of NEPAD, Africa is proposing to its development partners that the traditional sources of public and private capital flows be augmented by issuing treasury securities by development partners as well as special drawing rights specifically intended for Africa. I have been advocating such a policy for nearly 30 years, and it is as timely and relevant as ever.

The question of African debt. Solutions have been proposed repeatedly, without much success. Accordingly, I have proposed to my fellow heads of state that a continent-wide seminar be held in Dakar in 2003. The purpose of this seminar will be to analyze and gain an understanding of the dynamics of African debt, using a “debt imaging” diagnostic methodology. I consider this a prerequisite for designing viable strategies for emerging from the debt dilemma. The development partners—and especially the multilateral international institutions—will be invited to these meetings to share their experience with African experts.

Development of human resources, and capacity building in particular. One of NEPAD’s specific objectives is to reverse the trend toward the flight of intellectual capital from Africa, especially the loss of high-level expertise. In this context, our partners and we should consider appropriate incentives to promote the involvement of these expatriate African experts in technical assistance programs. We need to find ways to encourage them to return home for good.

And last but not least, public-private partnerships. In the new globalized environment, businesses are essentially in competition with one another. However, experience has shown that governments can provide significant assistance to businesses through a variety of channels open only to the state. Governments can build a strong legal, fiscal, and regulatory environment. They can engage in economic diplomacy, particularly in international negotiations. They can establish, maintain, and develop a technical and scientific critical mass. They can create an efficient system for strategic, forward-looking economic and social analysis. Consequently, Africa should not overlook the trend toward the reorganization of public-sector–private-sector relationships on new bases, as already observed in the industrial countries and in a number of emerging economies (such as Malaysia, Mauritius, and Tunisia).

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