The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was designed to address the current challenges facing the continent, including poverty, development and continued marginalization of Africa, the new Chief Executive Officer of the Partnership’s secretariat said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.
Speaking to reporters on the eve of introduction to the General Assembly of several reports on Africa, including on implementation and international support for NEPAD and state of various commitments on Africa’s development, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki said the New Partnership was an African Union vision and was the strategic framework for the continent’s renewal.
Also attending the press conference was Patrick R.D. Hayford, Director of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, who said that every effort was now being made to implement the agenda of bringing about Africa’s economic and social recovery.
With strong support from the international community, the Partnership had been spearheaded by African countries to address the continent’s needs, and it was integrated with the structures and processes of the African Union. Mr. Mayaki said NEPAD was now slated to become a technical arm of that regional organization, focusing mainly on the implementation of its programme.
He went on to describe NEPAD’s close ties with regional economic groups and individual countries in fostering the implementation and integration of identified projects. Among the Partnership’s priorities were agriculture, infrastructure, energy and capacity-building efforts. With over 60 per cent of the continent’s population living in rural areas, the development of the agricultural sector had great significance for poverty reduction and wealth creation. Modern and rehabilitated infrastructure was needed to get produce to markets and meet the continent’s needs, he added.
In the context of the current international economic crisis, NEPAD had an opportunity to support the African Union and regional economic communities in better designing their policies. In the long term, he saw NEPAD developing into “a sound think-tank” in terms of policy design at the continental level. Mr. Mayaki also outlined the Partnership’s voluntary peer-review mechanism allowing countries “to be diagnosed” in terms of political, economic and corporate governance. The NEPAD looked at the implementation of the conclusions and recommendations of those exercises, he added.
Responding to several questions about NEPAD’s specific plans to promote agriculture, Mr. Mayaki described the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), an African-led initiative, which NEPAD and the African Union had established in 2002. That Programme was a continent-wide policy framework, which promoted sound investment in agriculture at the national level and coordinated the provision of donor funds. Its objective of increasing African agricultural production by 6 per cent could be attained through promoting development of small farmers, provision of inputs and fertilizers, and the enhancement of regional cooperation. Among the main challenges related to agriculture in Africa, he also mentioned the issues of property rights and land reform.
On policy design, he said Africa’s food imports amounted to about $40 billion a year. If half of that money could be invested in sound policies, agricultural productivity could be significantly increased. Also of great importance was the implementation issue, which was closely linked to capacity-building.
In response to a question about last week’s session of the Committee on Trade, Regional Cooperation and Integration, a subsidiary body of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Mr. Mayaki said that the level of intra-African trade was very low, and boosting integration was a key factor for development. For that reason, the participants of the meeting had focused on building regional markets and achieving free movement of goods, services, capital and people across the regions.
Asked if the plan to have African standby forces in place by 2010 was on track, Mr. Hayford said that those forces were part of the continent’s larger peace and security architecture. There was a strong determination to get such forces established as quickly as possible.
Responding to a question about information technology in Africa, Mr. Mayaki drew attention to a so-called “E-Africa” Commission, which was dedicated to practical issues of information and technology. In many sub-Saharan areas, poor people could now get access to current market prices via SMS (text) messages. In the area of education, he also described an “E-Schools” initiative, which provided basic information technology to primary schools in several African countries.
Asked to comment on the fact that the prize of $5 million for African ex-leaders who had shown good governance had not been awarded this year, Mr. Mayaki said that one of the conclusions that could be drawn from this year’s report from the founders of the so-called “Ibrahim Prize” was that there had been progress in governance. At the same time, however, the prize had not been awarded this year, and that was a reminder of the need to continue promoting quality institutions and good governance in Africa.
Continuing, he said it was also a reminder of the necessity to build sound leadership on the continent which would be fundamentally accepted by the majority of the people. Moreover, the fact that over 50 per cent of the continent’s population was under the age of 18 would have a tremendous impact on future governance.
To a question about the issues that African countries would be raising at the upcoming Copenhagen Conference on climate change later this year, he said Africa would present a unified position at that summit. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia was a coordinator of the continent’s voice, and would stress the issues of great importance to Africa, including technology transfer and financing.
Asked if NEPAD was facing an issue of credibility, Mr. Mayaki said that the life of the Programme could be divided into two parts. The period of 2001 to 2009 could be characterized as an “experimental” phase, during which the secretariat put in place had not had a precise structural mandate. Now, with the integration into the African Union, the Partnership was entering the second phase of its existence. It now had a very specific mandate related to the implementation and fostering of the African Union’s programmes. Renewed credibility would have to be built during that second phase, he stressed.
In connection with the current crisis, he said the economic downturn presented a good opportunity for the continent, because Africa would have to rethink its policies for itself and not be donor-driven on policy design. One NEPAD’s aims was the promotion of African ownership, and, by that, he meant the need to design nationally-, regionally- and continentally-sound policies. It was important to rethink the continent’s development policies, he added.