The continued existence and recurrence of poverty in Africa has been an issue of concern to national governments, international development agencies such as the United Nations, NGOs, development assistance organizations and civil society in the developing world. In the 1990s, Oxfam, UNICEF and UNDP took an approach shift in their fight against poverty from based on beneficence to one based on human rights. The UNDP has over the years documented the incidence and magnitude of poverty across the world
1 It has consistently taken up poverty as a central issue of concern. Africa houses one third of the world's poorest people, it has 75% of the world's people living with HIV/AIDS, it has a foreign debt of more than $170billion and pays creditors at least $40million a week and its unemployment level is above 35%.
At its General Assembly held in September 2000 in New York, 189 countries endorsed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and these goals focus on poverty reduction. Earlier on in 1995, the Social Summit at Copenhagen saw many world leaders making a commitment towards reducing poverty in their respective countries by year 2000. More recently, African countries have come up with the New Partnership For Africa's Development (NEPAD) whose primary focus is to promote growth and development and to reduce poverty in Africa.
NEPAD is the latest effort by African leaders to do something at continental level in order to address Africa's economy that is highly fragile, facing greater marginalization. It is an attempt to respond to the new world order by ensuring that democratic structures and economic markets are geared for globalisation. It is also a response to the Millennium Declaration to tackle poverty and half it by 2015.
On the other hand, Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRS) now embodied in the PRSPs, consist of a country's vision, strategic objectives, goals and targets for the reduction of poverty within a given time frame.
2 In Africa, five countries have completed PRSPs namely, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Mauritania, Mozambique and Tanzania. In most cases the Poverty Reduction Strategies have been turned into Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. This has been the case with Uganda's Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), Tanzania's National Poverty Eradication Strategy (NPES) and Mozambique's Action Plan For the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA).
According to the World Bank, these documents describe a country's plan for macroeconomic, structural, and social policies for three-year economic structural adjustment programs to foster growth and reduce poverty, as well as associated external financing needs and major sources of financing. Poverty Reduction Strategies had given weight to public sector investment and the role of the informal sector but Poverty Reduction Strategy papers have laid emphasis on the private sector as the engine for growth. World Bank thinking on poverty reduction strategies are most aptly articulated in the World Development Report 1990 and the 1991 policy paper on Assistance Strategies to Reduce Poverty and the Operational Directive 4:15 which was issued in December 1991. In these papers, the Bank highlighted the need to:
"support policies that promote broad-based, labour-intensive growth, investments in human capital, and the provision of safety nets for those unable to share in the benefits of growth."
In 1996, the Strategic Compact re-emphasized the importance of rural development, and focused attention on social development-the role of institutions, social exclusion, social capital and warned about vulnerability of poor households and communities to shocks.
NEPAD has a number of stunning goals. They are essentially the Millennium Development goals:
As a CSO we commend our leaders for their courage and foresight. NEPAD is a unique initiative, African driven, African owned, African led, a renewal and development but has some problems we must address if poverty reduction is going to be realized in Africa
- an annual growth rate of 7% for fifteen years;
- cutting poverty in half by the year 2015; reduce
- infant mortality rates by two-thirds;
- reduce maternal mortality rates to three-quarters of what they were before;
- have every child
- enter school who is eligible, thereby re-enforcing the principle of
- gender equality.
In order top fully understand the trade, aid and debt concerns of NEPAD one needs to critically look at NEPAD's diagnosis of Africa's problems. NEPAD believes that Africa's poverty /malaise of underdevelopment and exclusion from the globalising world emanates from the following:
Put simply NePAD considers debt reduction and ODA as 'complementary external resources required in the short to medium term' and 'addressed private capital flows as a longer -term concern'
- NEPAD acknowledges that there are historical causes to Africa's poverty (paragraph 18) but it hastily points out that these per se are not the real problems-colonialism, cold war and the continuous imbalance of international economic system
- NEPAD rather goes on to argue that Africa's poverty is not purely economic but also political. That is, Africa at independence inherited a 'week capitalist class' and 'dysfunctional economies' which have resulted in today's 'economic decline' and 'poor governance' characterized by corruption and patronage. As if this is not enough, Africans themselves do not own the development strategies in the continent.
- Due to the above problems Africa has not been able to 'compete effectively' in the globalising markets due to absence of fair and just global rules. NePAD however, does not propose a solution to the fair and unjust global rules but rather prefers to leave the matter to the international system to decide. NePAD fails to give an alternative to the dominant market fundamentalist development model. THIS IN MY VIEW IS THE GREATST WEAKNESS OF NEPAD.
- The second weakness is that NePAD argues that there is a resource gap in Africa and Africa must depend on foreign capital (paragraph 153). The foreign capital must come in the form of Direct Foreign Investment (FDI). Will remain to this latter in the document.
- The third weakness is that NePAD will seek 'the extension of debt relief with 'costed poverty reduction outcomes' plus ' increased ODA flows in the medium term as well as reform of the ODA delivery system' to ensure that flows are more efficiently utilized by recipient African countries (see paragraphs 148-9). NePAD speaks of debt relief instead of debt cancellation and reparations to give the African continent an economic start.
- Poverty in NePAD is a secondary focus area with long term and indirect mechanisms put as strategies for poverty reduction. However, these have been tried in the past through SAPs and has failed.
- Overall, NePAD fails to make clear proposals to address uneven power relations between Africa and the developed world which is actually the root of its marginalization and poverty. This will remain as the biggest obstacle to Africa's development. The issue of reparations for slavery, colonization and apartheid are not mentioned.
- The quest for foreign capital tend s a blind eye to the consequences of privatization-poverty and inequality.
- See UNDP Global Human Development Reports 1995-2000; and UNDP Poverty Report 2000.
- International Monetary Fund: About Country Policy Intention Documents.
- World Bank (op.cit), p 35