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4. Initial Commentary on NEPAD
On 10 December 2001 Professor Ravi Kanbur of Cornell University presented a review of NEPAD and suggestions on how it might develop its poverty reduction framework at a lunch session and an afternoon lecture hosted by SARPN. Here we give a brief overview of his paper entitled The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD): an Initial Commentary, and the discussions that followed its presentation.

4.1 Comparative advantage

After outlining the structure of NEPAD and its action programme, Kanbur’s paper focuses on the question of how to prioritise amongst the large number of possible actions and interventions. He argues that this should be done on the basis of NEPAD’s sources of comparative advantage, stemming from its origins and status as a regional institution with roots in African democracies.

4.2 Prioritisation

On specific poverty issues prioritisation should consider direct versus indirect impacts and short run versus long run consequences. An example of a long run, indirect intervention would be infrastructure investment for high technology manufacturing, while investment in health facilities or the development of an effective anti-malaria vaccine are examples of interventions likely to have a more immediate and direct impacts. Investments with long run positive impacts on poverty reduction may have short term adverse impacts that need to be taken into account.

4.3 Policy domains

Kanbur suggests that these two principles can be developed in the context of four policy domains, Global, Regional, National and Local. The global domain includes issues affecting all nations on the planet such as global warming or the WTO. The regional domain affects African countries such as trade preferences with the EU or Africa’s response to the US African Growth and Opportunity Act and cross national issues within Africa like water rights. The national domain is the area most commonly discussed including national policies and budgets, the legal system, democratic governance and media freedom. The local domain goes right down to communities and households such as schooling, economic activity and local services.

4.4 Impacts on the poor

Because poverty is defined at the local level, the ultimate focus of policy in the global, regional and national domains must always be its impact, directly or indirectly on the poor at local level. For example the international development of a malaria vaccine would have a direct impact at local level, while international financial arrangements would have a more indirect impact through stimulating economic growth at regional and national levels.

4.5 Applying the framework

The paper goes on to apply this framework to a number of examples, noting that NEPAD’s comparative advantage is particularly suited to issues of peace and security. Its advantage is less clear on issues of economic and political governance, with some issues perhaps better left to organisations like the African Development Bank. Kanbur argues that this area needs further debate before prioritisation. Under Sub Regional and Regional the paper again argues that some areas appear well suited to a regional initiative while for others there may already be organisations involved or be better suited to these initiatives. He raises similar concerns about Sectoral Priorities. This concern highlights the importance of coordinating NEPAD with other organisations and initiatives, an issue that is raised in the NEPAD document. In the area of Mobilising Resources Kanbur identifies a number of issues, such as the Capital Flows Initiative where NEPAD has a clear advantage and other such as Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) where the advantage is less clear and other agencies such as the Economic Commission for Africa may be better suited to deal with issues around, for example, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). On Market Access NEPAD would enjoy an advantage in areas such as negotiating Africa position at the WTO, but would be less well suited to specific sectoral issues such as mining. In areas such as the development of new industries, the discussion is too generalised at present to define a clear role for NEPAD.

4.6 Discussion

Issues raised included:

Areas of agreement
  • Value of NEPAD in presenting an African voice in global debates
  • Growing consensus that poverty reduction requires both a free market and state regulation and intervention, not either or
  • The importance of strong institutional structures at different levels
  • Development processes in one region spill over into neighbouring regions
  • Poverty in Africa affects the industrialised countries
  • Effectiveness of the RDP was influenced by the failure to focus on a few priorities
  • NEPAD is not meant to replace or duplicate existing institutions but rather to increase their effectiveness through coordination
  • Need to emphasise NEPAD’s political authority as a heads of state initiative
  • Aim is to motivate not control or set up a continent wide planning body
  • Good governance has direct benefits for the poor, for example through the local level legal system
  • At present it is too top down.
Areas of concern

  • Failure to look at sustainable development as a strategic objective
  • Applying the framework to the four fast track areas yields the following scores; communicable diseases – high, information and communications technology – low, debt reduction – high and market access too broad to score.
  • The institutional dimensions of NEPAD are not clear from the documentation
  • Civil society needs to be more involved and needs to push for greater involvement
  • Many of the institutions referred to are dysfunctional
  • Poverty reduction depends on a more self reliant local level approach, does NEPAD provide space for such an approach?
  • Donors only fund programmes that fit their agenda
  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) goes to countries rich in natural resources regardless of their political record
  • Menu is overloaded, will need to be more specific to play a catalytic role
  • Environment seems to be a difficult issue for NEPAD
  • Diverse groups with different interests constitute the poor, NEPAD needs to be more specific
  • In many African countries the civil service is weak, leading to poor implementation
  • Need criteria for mutual monitoring. Areas like financial standards are easier to agree on.
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