By Chinua Akukwe
TBWT Guest Contributor
The recent G-8 conference in Canada, included an " African Day" devoted to discussions between G-8 leaders and select African leaders on the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). The G-8 leaders at the end of this interaction presented a " G-8 Africa Action Plan." However, the "Action Plan" has come under relentless criticisms from Western and African media, civil society organizations and professional bodies for being too vague in terms of resources and commitments. It is important to ponder what's next for the triangular relationship between African leaders, NEPAD and G-8.
I begin by stating without reservations that Africa needs the G-8 countries and the G-8 countries need Africa for multiple reasons. G-8 countries need Africa as bulwark in the war against terrorism; for unimpeded access to oil and gas reserves and mineral deposits to meet the voracious needs of its industries and middle class; as a last frontier for hugely profitable returns for the private sector, and; to continue the spread of democracy.
Africa on the other hand, need G-8 for accelerated new financial investments; for deep and sustained debt relief; to complement poverty alleviation efforts; for infrastructure development, and; very important, to win the war against HIV/AIDS. A very careful analysis may suggest that it is difficult to identify who should be the designated bride or bridegroom in this mutually beneficial partnership. The idea that a continent of more than 700 million people and substantial mineral deposits may be left in the lurch in an increasingly global political and economic system is wishful thinking.
Now, what is the future of this partnership? I believe that the first place to look is the much-criticized G-8 "Action Plan." The plan, according to G-8 leaders "is the G-8 's initial response, designed to encourage the imaginative effort that underlies NEPAD and to lay a solid foundation for future cooperation." The G-8 Action Plan for all intents and purposes could be seen as a "G-8 Intention Plan."
This reading is best captured by the wily President Obasanjo of Nigeria who stated in his address to G-8 leaders in Canada "For us in Africa, the journey is just beginning…It is true that given the magnitude of the development challenges facing
Africa, the resources required will be far in excess of those proposed. However, we are hopeful that, now that you have embarked with us on this long journey, you will continue with us to the end, and that we can therefore continue to count on your support whenever we might need it in the future." The pragmatic and tactical President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa writing in the Business Day newspaper of Johannesburg indicated that the G-8 Africa Action plan represents an important step "towards" the renewal of Africa. African and G-8 leaders are already aware that the triangular partnership with NEPAD is a long-term proposition.
The key is to ensure that short-term steps are taken now to maintain the momentum of the partnership. These short-term steps should be completed within the next two years, with some as early as the end of the year.
African leaders should obtain wider support for NEPAD.
Civil society organizations, professional bodies, community-based organizations, the legislative branches of government, the private sector, and students are not yet on board regarding NEPAD. I have no doubt that the G-8 leaders, all seasoned politicians, are aware of this anomaly. I had written previously that NEPAD must cover all bases in Africa.
NEPAD must have priority focus on the number one development emergency in Africa: HIV/AIDS. I fail to see how NEPAD can become sustainable in the face of a relentless deadly onslaught from HIV/AIDS in Africa. The UNAIDS estimates that more than 19 million Africans have died of AIDS, and by 2020, 55 million more Africans, mostly men and women in the prime productive ages, will die in the absence of concerted treatment and prevention programs.
The new Africa Union should become the center of an organized, purposeful, and strategic thrust on Africa's renaissance.
The African Union should become a magnet of ideas on Africa's renewal rather than a dumping ground for retired, tired or out-of-favor politicians and bureaucrats. The role of NEPAD in the African Union should be settled as quickly as possible. Regional integration issues should become a major focus of the African Union.
Democracy and peaceful transfer of power should become rote in Africa. I believe that the triangular relationship between Africa, NEPAD and G-8 rests on strong democratic systems and seamless transfer of political power. The ongoing crude attempts by some African leaders to perpetuate themselves in power after decades of personalized leadership will not only hurt their countries but will also have ripple effects in Africa. The dangers of political instability, personalization of power and the break down of law and order may sound the death knell for Africa's renaissance.
The private sector and civil society should become trusted partners of the government.
Today, governments in Africa remain the most "lucrative" entity in the society. However, the Africa, NEPAD and G-8 partnership requires a robust, respectful relationship between the private sector, the civil society and the public sector. It is highly unlikely that the public sector in Africa will create all the new jobs that will see Africa trade or work its way out of poverty. It is also unlikely that the public sector can serve as the ultimate watchdog of its own activities.
Manage scarce resources prudently and with accountability.
The triangular relationship between Africa, NEPAD and G-8 may rise or fall on this premise. African governments cannot create a situation whereby their citizens or international partners will lose confidence in their capacity to manage national and international resources in the most effective manner.
Organize and tap the expertise of Africans living in the West.
I believe that G-8 leaders are aware of the skills and expertise of Africans living in the West. Discussions on technical and even financial expertise are likely to gravitate to the potential contributions of these Africans. African leaders should see the expertise of these Africans as strategic assets that should be tapped immediately.
Cancel or substantially reduce the debts of African nations.
The $I billion stated in the G-8 Action Plan toward the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative is a good step forward, but not enough by a mile. G-8 nations should end the situation in Africa (2001) where more than 16 African nations are spending more money on debt repayments than on healthcare, according to the UNAIDS. In addition, the UNAIDS indicate that several African countries with HIV prevalence above 20 percent are not eligible for the current HIPC initiative. I believe that debt relief for Africa will be a significant test of G-8's commitment to Africa's renewal.
Assist African governments to repatriate looted monies.
President Obasanjo of Nigeria estimates that Africa has lost at least $140 billion through corruption since the 1960s. As a fence mending gesture in the short term, G-8 nations can accelerate the return of some of these monies to Africa for verifiable investments in healthcare, education and infrastructure development. In the long term, the banking institutions and the political establishment in Africa and the West will work out an amicable solution on how to resolve the issue.
Increase development assistance to Africa.
The G-8 is planning to devote half or more of new development assistance (about $6 billion) to Africa by 2006. Why not sooner to help jumpstart the NEPAD initiative? The G-8 leaders indicated that they remain committed to the principle that no
African country will be denied the chance to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals through lack of finance. Why not, in addition to accelerating the promised development assistance, increase aggregate amount of aid by the next summit in 2003? Perhaps by the next summit, G-8 nations will agree to meet their commitment to spend 0.7 of their GNP on development assistance.
Meet the required financial outlay for the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.
The G-8 should fully fund the Global Fund to the tune of $10 billion a year as requested by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. So far, about $2 billion are available over a number of years, with roughly $800 million available to the Fund for this year.
Do something soon rather than later on agricultural subsidies in the West.
To meet the lofty ideals of NEPAD, Africa must trade its way out of poverty. The massive agricultural subsidies in the West inhibit the capacity of African farmers to access Europe and North American markets. The G-8 leaders in Canada committed
by 2005 to "… reductions of all forms of export subsidies with a view to their being phased out, and substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support." Again, why not make significant strides in this vital area sooner rather than later?
Africa and G-8 nations are joined in a mutually beneficial triangular relationship with the NEPAD initiative. The 2002 G-8 meeting set the ball rolling on this long-term relationship. The road ahead will definitely have its twists and turns. In the interim,
both Africa and G-8 have some serious work to do in order to sustain the partnership.
Dr. Chinua Akukwe is a member of the Board of Directors of the Constituency
for Africa (CFA), Washington, DC, and a former vice chairman of the National
Council for International Health (NCIH), now known as the global health
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