Special Documents


By Kunle Amuwo

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is yet another initiative by Africa’s Heads of State and Governments intended to reverse, for good, the beggarly and highly embarrassing image of the continent through a ‘sustained engagement’ with the developed world. Among its many objectives, NEPAD seeks to halt the growing and deepening poverty of Africans by working towards altering the basis of the relationship between the rich North and the poor South. The initiative seeks a new global partnership based on shared responsibility and mutual interest through the instrumentality of political democracy and economic development on the continent. It is also concerned to institute people-centered development via market-oriented economies capable of holding their own ground in the global village. Furthermore, NEPAD is in search of building blocks to lay the foundation for a new politico-economic order, one able to permanently reverse the old cliché that ‘Africa is rich but Africans are poor’. The politico-economic blueprint of action is also meant to strengthen the capacity of the state with a view to making it an effective engineer, formulator and implementer of people-friendly programs and policies. Finally, where various Lome EU-ACP agreements have virtually condemned Africa to the unenviable role of producing no more than primary commodities for Western industrial consumption, NEPAD proposes a frontal attack on the negative fall-outs of the continent’s integration into the global system as an extremely weak partner and a peripheral player.

What the authors of NEPAD are saying, in brief, is that whilst it is imperative for Africa to clean up its act and begin to take its rightful place in the comity of continents, it cannot-and should not be expected-to go it alone. Yet, little or nothing in the document suggests that the Western paradigm of development that has done everything except develop the continent is being challenged or contested.

My principal argument here, at once implicit and explicit, is that since Africa’s history of unequal relations with the developed world in the last three centuries or so is such that it has largely become a non-autonomous actor without the capacity to decide its own fate and future, NEPAD—by being essentially a-historical does not constitute an adequate response to the continent’s underdevelopment. It needs to be replaced by a more African-centered economic action plan that takes the continents history into account. That is to say a history that is two-sided. First, one needs to consider Africa’s relations with the West in terms of the slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism. In the latter’s contemporary rendition as “globalization,” the continent encounters the diffusion of Western capitalism and cultural values and a network of socio-economic and political institutions and relations that have made Africa’s political economy the most vulnerable to both positive and negative external influences. The second side of that history is the bad politics and venal leadership in much of the continent that were either ignored or supported by the West during the Cold War period—depending on their strategic or nuisance value—but which have become costly in both political and economic terms after the formal end of the Cold War. As Zack-Williams, have argued, “Africa’s crisis is not natural or inevitable but a product of human history; a history forged in the complex interaction between locals and foreigners, states and societies, and domestic and imperial pressures.” [1]

A major lacuna in NEPAD, I argue, is its inability or unwillingness, or both, to boldly account for Africa’s underdevelopment as a function of both the epochal consequences of colonialism/structural imperialism and bad politics of many of the continent’s political leaders. It may be true that “democracy in the form of multiparty elections was generally seen by African rulers as the price to pay for continued financial assistance rather than as the political modality that will make development more likely.” [2] But it is also true that structural adjustment programs (SAPs) had greatly undermined the capacity of African states economically and strengthened their hands politically to deal with political discontent. To make sense of this methodological impasse, Alex de Waal’s notion of NEPAD as a ‘big idea’ that buys into “the promise of bold international action to resolve Africa’s crisis” is useful. [3] Taken along with his argument that one of NEPAD’s strengths is that there is nothing essentially new about it, that what Africa needs is not so much new development models as “a proper application of lessons already learned,” we get the moral that the success of this African initiative seems to be hinged on a correct reading of Africa’s history as well as on adequate responses to that history. [4] In NEPAD’s attempt to grapple with that history, it seems to have treated the ‘international community’ with kid gloves. And, what is more, this has been done in a rather simplistic manner, in an A then B explicatory schema: If Africa puts its house in order, the continent’s ‘traditional’ trading partners will fund its development. It is as if authors of NEPAD have turned the history of Africa’s relations with the West on its head. It is as if contemporary globalization—particularly in the trade practices of the North in relation to the South-has no abiding hard lessons to teach Africa’s political leaders.

The remainder of this paper is divided into four sections. The first examines the nature of globalization and its effects on Africa and the new development initiative. The second critically interrogates the competing approaches to the governance question and how NEPAD addresses it. The third section analyses the challenges that governance poses to Africa’s political leaders. The last section, which also concludes the essay, is concerned to identify to what extent the document’s provisions are capable of aiding the process of constructing a developmental state on the continent. In all of this I argue that by appropriating, almost hook, line and sinker, a paradigm of Western hegemony that, in various changing forms and guises, has mainly been responsible for the continent’s underdevelopment, NEPAD does not, and cannot, be the Plan of Action to save Africa both from the outside world and from itself and this notwithstanding the good intentions of its proponents. In its place, I make a case for a developmental state that will give locus and focus to the governance project, first domestically by the gradual insertion of consensual politics between governments, unions (civil society organizations) and business, and secondly internationally, through sustained political pressure to render global governance humane.


Globalization is a complex process and phenomenon of antinomies and dialectics: integrating and fragmenting world; uniformity and localization; increased material prosperity and deepening misery; homogenization and hegemonization. Globalization is nothing but a mixed grill. On the one hand, it has the potentiality of eroding national sovereignty of the weakest and poorest states, whilst widening the technological divide amongst states; on the other, it tends to provide an enabling environment for greater respects for human rights and gender equality. It is an economic orthodoxy that is failing the people, but enriching investors and big corporations. When Africa’s political leaders rein into it, it is problematic; and when nation-states propose or seek to implement alternatives, they are puniitd. They are reminded by the rich and powerful nations, à la Reagan and Thatcher, that there is no alternative to the only way—the market path—of running the ‘global economy.’

Cooper conceptualizes globalization in three ways: the ‘Banker’s Boast,’ according to which globalization is no longer a work in progress, but rather a concrete reality capable of emptying governments of their sovereignty; ‘Social Democrats’ lamentation about that ‘reality’ that gnaws away at the fabric of social welfarism; and finally what he calls ‘the ‘Dance of the Flows and Fragments,’ that is to say, globalization as an uneven process. For him, what is wrong with the triple explication is their “totalizing pretensions and their presentist periodization.” [5] He would rather buy into the notion of globalization as a process in becoming, whose coherence, reach and specificity are still in a state of flux. Nevertheless, in Cooper’s historical analysis of capitalism, the import of globalization to developing economies comes into bold relief. Africa’s structural context of choice is mired in a dialectical relationship between a putative openness of global market and a real lack of state autonomy. He invites us to examine capitalism in an Atlantic spatial system and by so doing “write about large-scale, long-term processes, without overlooking specificity, contingency and contestation.” [6] More germane to our discussions is his observation that the contemporary form of globalization is as deglobalizing of Africa as colonialism. He argues that only small states with scant strategic value for Western powers are doing well; others with strategic interests and oil economies “are in permanent economic crisis.” Furthermore, the macro-economic, neo-liberal, market-friendly economic policies of IFIs are such that “Africa’s contribution to world trade and its intake of investment funds were larger in the days of national economic policy than in the days of economic openness.” Finally, for Cooper, contemporary globalization is no more than an “age of globalizing deglobalization in Africa or of distorted globalization.” [7]

The theme of Africa’s massive marginalization under globalization finds a resonant echo in Mazrui. He argues that whilst “the continent helped to develop Europe through labor, territory and extractive ‘imperatives’ of the colonial era, every stage of Africa’s contribution to globalization was also a stage in its own marginalization.” [8] The view that globalization is not a universal phenomenon and that only economies already competitive profit most from it has virtually become a dominant school of thought. [9] Africa is, perhaps, the worst affected. With the concentration of the benefits of globalization in the triad (US, EU and Japan), the inability of globalization to meet the most basic needs of people in the poorest countries has only worsened the structural crisis of international political economy. Similarly, the autonomy and degree of maneuverability of African states are severely constrained. Not only do most of them lack the ability to develop their own market capital, they have “increasingly lost the authority to determine both the direction of social development or the context of social policy.” [10] Globalization has worked more for the corporate world both in the developed and developing worlds and less for the hapless people in the developing world. [11] The phenomenon has been anything but a positive sum game; poor countries not only routinely lose out to the rich, but also transfer huge export earnings to foreign institutional creditors in the name of debt servicing—four times more money than they spend on basic health and care and education.

Perhaps nowhere is globalization more pernicious and debilitating to the interest of Africa than the hugely unfair trade practices institutionalized under the aegis of the World Trade Organization (WTO). By favoring the worst form of unregulated capitalism in modern history-with rigged rules and unfair agricultural standards for Africa—globalization imperils both democracy and development on the continent. Bello, has detailed how this is done. One, a powerful and wide-ranging WTO has been better able to protect the interest of the US more than the GATT it replaced. This was realized by getting African states to sign the Marrakesh Accord of 1994. The latter gave teeth to the Uruguay Round whilst effectively robbing these states of “their right to employ a variety of critical trade measures for development purposes.” [12] A major measure is the ‘local content’ rules used by several newly industrializing countries to achieve a judicious balance between foreign investment and national industrialization. Two, the use of Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) and Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), are not only inimical to the industrialization and development of developing countries, but also deepen their technological dependence on firms of the developed world. Three, WTO does not recognize the ‘special and differential’ status Third World countries enjoyed under both the UNCTAD and GATT. On the contrary, it decrees that the only route to development “is one that involves radical trade (and investment) liberalization.” Four, the WTO’s Special Measures on Developing Countries have been honored more in their breach than in their observance. A notable example is the one on agriculture that was intended to give assistance to ‘Net Food Importing Countries’ with a view to offsetting the reduction of subsidies that would make food imports more expensive. Five, whilst virtually insisting that developing countries should withdraw subsidies from their farmers, OECD countries have regularly increased theirs. Jean Chretien, the Canadian Prime Minister, declared during a special session in the UN General Assembly devoted to NEPAD in September 2002 that one way rich countries can help African economies is to end subsidies worth $350 billion for domestic agricultural products. In the process, the playing field that multilateral trading system seeks to put in place is further endangered. Finally, Bello concludes that “the WTO systematically protects the trade and economic advantages of the rich countries, particularly the United States. It is based on a paradigm or philosophy that denigrates the right to take activist measures to achieve development on the part of the less developed countries, thus leading to a radical dilution of their right to ‘special and differential treatment.’ The WTO raises inequality into a principle of decision-making.” [13]

To all appearances, Africa’s political leaders and their sundry economic and political advisers do not read the nature and character of the global system they are dealing with in the way have articulated above. They seem to believe that genuine partnership is possible between them and their Western counterparts based on the existing rules of the contemporary global system. Thus, the NEPAD document at paragraph 188 talks, in relation to Africa, about the “responsibilities and obligations of the developed countries and multilateral institutions, ranging from debt relief to market access and governance reform of the multilateral institutions.” Authors of the document in question seem to understand neither the system nor the structures with which they are confronted. They have not come to terms with the logic of a system that, vis-a-vis poor countries, often say what it will not do and does what it does not say. By so doing, they make inordinately unrealistic assumptions and prognosis. As Maxwell and Christiansen have argued, “the conditions in aid relationship tend to apply more to the recipient country than to the donor; this has been described as ‘asymmetrical accountability’ and is rather closer in practice to traditional conditionality than to genuine partnership.” [14] Understood this way, Ake’s contention that development “is not for a people who do not know who they are and where they are coming from, for such people are unlikely to know where they are going” makes eminent sense. [15]

This misreading of the global system is not new. Africa’s political leaders at juridical independence in the 1960s—and the state formations they inherited—were introduced to what they thought was a neutral, almost altruistic, international economic and financial system that was interested in the continent’s ‘accelerated development’ with a view to ‘catching up with the West’ (two of the buzzwords of that era). Once the euphoria of independence withered away, the leaders would discover a world ‘order’ that was, almost in all material particular, disorderly and anarchical. They found a global system where ethics and morality were—and still are—routinely neglected in favor of real-politik and an aggressive pursuit of national interests. They found a globe dominated by highly industrialized, rich and powerful nations that jealously protect their markets, industries and privileges whilst states that do little more than produce raw materials and sell primary goods, by virtue of an amoral ‘international division of labor,’ have to play second fiddle.

Naturally, Africa’s political leaders have been frustrated by this reality more so that over four decades after, few, if any, of the promises of development have been fulfilled on the continent. On the contrary, almost by all accounts, Africans are, in general terms, worse off today materially than they were at nominal independence. Today, the majority of those 1.2 billion people the World Bank says live on less than one US dollar per day are found on the continent. Whilst foreign aid and foreign direct investments (FDIs) are drying up, much of what remains continues to be tied to buying goods and services from donor nations. African states feature prominently among the lowest FDI in the world-less than 0.5% of the value of their GNP. [16] Collier expatiates: “Africa is currently attracting only those investments which cannot be located elsewhere, such as mineral extraction or production for the (tiny) domestic market. The major internationally footloose investments are simply bypassing Africa as a location.” [17] A major reason for this, according to Cooper is that the continent “is filled with areas where international investors do not go.” [18] It is curious that notwithstanding this empirical reality, the authors of NEPAD place their faith on a substantial external funding of the continent’s development.

Under globalization, the continent’s marginalization could not have been worse. According to one analyst, “not only has the international leverage of African leaders been drastically diminiitd in the globalizing post-cold war world, they now sail in the largely uncharted waters of eroding norms of sovereignty, dwindling Western concern with Africa’s poverty, a vacuum of ideological visions and the growing power of external non-state actors such as multinational corporations, non-governmental organizations, crime syndicates and CNN”. [19] Thus, unlike Europe or North America seeking to redefine its sovereignty, in much of Africa the question is not so much a question of reinvention of sovereignty as the crisis of collapsing or disintegrating states that have to be rescued. [20] But for several reasons (including the global system’s profound lack of democracy; IFIs not being development institutions; the nefarious activities of business lobbies, however formally legal, that constitute a graver threat to democracy and accountability in developing countries than domestic corruption, etc.), dependence on market economy will only postpone Africa’s development to the mythical calendes greces. [21] As Germain has put it, “the belief in globalization as an unfettered collective good has received a knock” since the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. [22] A major argument here is that it is difficult to preach democracy, however understood, to countries at the mercy of a global financial system whose decision-making mechanisms are insulated from the general processes of democratic accountability. Expressed provocatively, we can, in a fundamental sense, trace the lack of crucial resources for nation-building and economic development as well as a proliferation of intra and inter-state conflicts that this often engenders to crucial decisions taken in the inner recesses of IFIs.

A globalization accelerates; notwithstanding the stagnation in the volume of global trade in 2001 after an exceptional 12% growth in 2000-Africa is caught between autonomy and openness. This has serious politico-economic and social repercussions domestically and globally. As expatiated below, on account of weak internal governance mechanisms these states find it difficult to maximize openness whilst also experiencing considerable problems in effectively choosing autonomy. The seemingly rising profile in the donor community of the four principal drivers of NEPAD (South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal and Algeria) is, within this context, a double-edged sword: to implement NEPAD, they are likely to be more sensitive to Western interests because of the high hopes placed on the donor community for funding the Initiative. In the process, they are likely to end up paying only a nodding attention to critical African interests and perspectives.

Yet, these leaders know that to enjoy domestic legitimacy and credibility, they have to create the impression in the minds of the people that they are busy working for them. There is, in consequence, some element of enlightened self-interest in the current initiative by Africa’s Heads of State and Governments. They have placed the onus on themselves to engage African peoples and the continent’s ‘development partners’ in a seemingly frank dialogue with a view to making the 21st Century Africa’s.

The opening paragraph of NEPAD appears unambiguous about the authors’ commitment to lead the new struggle and offensive. It read thus: “This New Partnership for Africa’s Development is a pledge by African leaders based on a common vision and a firm conviction, that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and to place their countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development, and at the same time to participate actively in the world economy and body politic.” [23] To successfully undertake this resolution, the document rejects a ‘beggar-thy-neighbor’ approach to development. On the contrary, it unequivocally advocates for the reversal of Africa’s abnormal situation by changing the relationship that underpins it. It adds: “Africans are appealing neither for the further entrenchment of dependency through aid, nor for marginal concessions.” [24] What the leaders are demanding is that a people-friendly balance should be struck between the wealth-creating energies of international private capital and enterprise and the public obligations of good governance. Whilst pledging a firm commitment to the latter, the leaders want to engage the rich nations to make the former available to Africa anchored on a new global partnership characterized by shared responsibility and mutual interest. In other words, the plea is that both sides of the equation should begin to act more responsibly and more humanely for the sake of humanity. But how far can exhortatory politics go?


In the last decade or so, the notion of ‘good governance’ has increasingly been used as part of the conditionality for continued ‘aid’ to developing countries. It has become a cherished concept within the donor community, the chancelleries of diplomatic capitals and among aid recipient countries. The concept, nevertheless remains slippery, highly contentious, and one whose province is also a contested terrain. Mercifully, it is possible to tease out a few contending perspectives before attempting to show how governance issues are addressed within the NEPAD framework.

The first perspective is the technocratic/economic approach, the domain of IFIs and the donor community. Aid recipients are required to balance their financial books well, to avoid balance of payments deficits. To do this, all that is required is to follow both the letter and spirit of orthodox economic reforms stipulated by these institutions and the donor community: trade liberalization, currency devaluation, subsidy withdrawal from agriculture, privatization of commanding heights of the economy, the private sector as the engine of development. The problem is that people, the real beneficiaries of these reforms, are hardly factored in. It seems as if the administration of things (healthy GDP and GNP per capita, etc) are prioritized above the greatest welfare for the greatest number of the people. Ends appear to justify the means. The whether of economic development is deemed more important than how and for whom it is realized. Some dosages of authoritarianism not excluded from the equation. For Manji and O’Coill, this perspective on good governance is no more than repackaged structural adjustment programs that were highly contested in many parts of Africa in the 1980s and early 1990s. [25] They have been retouched and supposedly given a ‘human face’.

The second perspective is essentially political. Here, good governance means legitimate government, one that is properly put in place by the electorate themselves and that stays in close touch with the people. Good governance therefore requires a functional state that is institutionally strong, efficient and effective anchored on publicly determined, predictable and increasingly routinized ‘rules of the game’. The objective would be to guarantee “public security and the rule of law, necessary conditions for both economic development and democratization” (Carlos, 2001:163). But this has to be a state in the process of becoming. Thus, Carlos adds that good governance is a call for “the emergence of a reformed state, governed by the rules of legitimacy, transparency, accountability and responsibility.” [26] Good governance in this sense would mean the pursuit of two mutually reinforcing agendas: democracy and governance. A third and final perspective on good governance sees the latter as ‘ownership’ by the people of reform and development programs enunciated by the state/government. This entails participatory democracy, decentralization of decision-making centers of power in both political and economic senses.

In this respect, the literature raises two important issues. One, domestic ownership of reforms as a necessary condition for the successful implementation of reform and development programs. [27] Two, the notion of ‘beneficiary ownership, or the increased citizen participation in the design and implementation of programs. [28] Furthermore, Killick argue that ownership indicates a conflict of interest between the objectives sought by donors and national governments. [29] Apparently with Africa in mind, Killock,, warn that “there is unlikely to be convergence between the objectives and interests of donors and recipients.” [30] This is because, among other reasons, the two parties are informed by different historical and institutional backgrounds. They also report to different constituencies.


Nothing defines governance more than its social or public purpose. This is what ties the foregoing three perspectives together. But as Sachs has argued, countries may be well governed (in any of the senses outlined above) but that will not remove structural impediments to development. [31] Thus, whilst not ignoring the market and the discipline it sometimes imposes on key political actors, a technocratic interpretation of good governance does not appear as socially relevant as the political legitimacy and ownership perspectives. As rules for organizing public affairs, managing the interaction the market, the state and civil society, as well as the relationship between a state’s power structure and the civil society, governance can be either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to the extent that certain key criteria are met (e.g., consensual political goals, political participation and political accountability). [32] Governance is also a regime of rules concerning not only whether the state delivers social goods and values, but also, how this is being done. In other words, whilst the notion of governance necessarily has, both technocratic and political elements these two elements should be more preponderant lest we are confronted with states that are fairly efficient, but hardly effective.

Herein lies important challenges for Africa’s political leaders as they grapple with NEPAD. They have to make the double political dimension of governance dominant. By so doing, the unregulated and undemocratic space of technocracy can gradually be brought under control, lest powerful groups and individuals continue to exploit the people in the name of state efficiency that lacks ennobling social ingredients. In essence, ‘good’ governance will consist of political rationality among policy makers, reforming state and democratic institutions deepening democracy, and facilitating the expansion of the public space for more non-state actors to find unmitigated expression. [33] Furthermore, good governance will also entail reversing what globalization stands for: It now seeks the latter seeks to “make the population fit for global capital” without any plans whatsoever “to make capital adapt to the needs of the population”. [34] The process of reversal would mean more responsible and responsive governments, weak enough to do what the people want, but strong enough to get them to work and to progressively make African states productive economies. Weiss puts this in clear relief by suggesting that:

Processes or rules of decision-making that are more likely to result in actions that are truly in the public interest, rather than favoring the private exploitation of the public interest. The central challenge is not to halt the expansion of the market but to establish proper rules and institutions so that the benefits of growth are more widely beneficial. [35]

Similarly, Africa’s political leaders have to commit themselves to a more social definition of good governance by legitimizing “alternative definitions that prioritize public welfare or governmental accountability to citizens instead of to foreign creditors.” [36] This would involve a more critical reading and understanding of the nature and character of contemporary global system.

According to the Declaration on Africa’s Development Challenges, [adopted at the end of a conference jointly hosted in Accra, Ghana in April 2002 by the Council for Development and Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and the Third World Network (TWN)-Africa on “Africa’s Development Challenges in the Millenium”] the development vision and economic measures proposed by NEPAD are unrealistic and flawed because they do not challenge the status quo. More specifically, the Declaration argues that the vision will do little more than “reinforce the hostile external environment and the internal weaknesses that constitute the major obstacles to Africa’s development.” [37] African scholars have been largely skeptical of what the donor community means by good governance. According to Mukandala, the liberal democracy of the third wave is a hijacking of the people’s political struggle “for something that is formally democratic and progressive but substantively empty. Liberal democracy of the third wave cloaks itself in legality than legitimacy. It promotes ‘good governance’ that is managerial and status quo oriented and that can only allow for growth, rather than leadership that must pursue structural transformation.” [38] The continent’s political leaders have to identify and work within paradigms that facilitate rather than retard continental development.

To be sure, this challenge would require some form of radicalization of the continent’s political leaders. At this critical juncture of Africa’s history, they may have little choice to facilitating “a politics of resistance” among their people. [39] Interestingly, there are some snippets of evidence in NEPAD that its authors recognize the need for this brand of politics, though these are largely left undeveloped for reasons that are perhaps understandable. Paragraph 54 of the blueprint speaks to the fact that the “struggle [Africans would be waging will be successful only if our peoples are the masters of their own destiny.” [40] And paragraph 56 calls on African peoples “to take up the challenge of mobilizing in support of the implementation of this initiative by setting up, at all levels, structures for organization, mobilization and action.” [41]

NEPAD authors seem to have given some attention to this important issue in terms of ownership of the program as well as the accountability of leaders to the people. Yes, ownership appears to have been smuggled in only as an after-thought. It is one of the major gaps in the document. If the initiative is to succeed, African states and governments need as much support from the people as they can get. As a “dynamic and endogenous concept” in which “good economic outcomes…tend to support greater ownership,” mass support for initial success is very important. [42] In any event, it will not be enough for Africa’s political leaders to be in the good books of the donor community. They will enjoy genuine legitimacy both at home and abroad only as they work assiduously to close the gap between themselves and their people in terms of broad, long-term social objectives and the means to achieve them. There is a further important consideration. With relatively weak state capacity and less than strong policy decision-making processes, how meaningful is program ownership by the people? [43]

The notion of accountability of leaders is a welcome development. At the very heart of good governance, accountability facilitates other areas of social commitment by the state. Having committed themselves to strengthening national, sub-regional and continental structures that support good governance.” [44] Africa’s political leaders also propose, that “the Heads of State Forum… will serve as a mechanism through which the leadership of NEPAD will periodically monitor and assess the progress made by African countries in meeting their commitment towards achieving good governance and social reforms.” [45] They add that the “Forum will also provide a platform for countries to share experiences with a view to fostering good governance and democratic practices.” [46] Known as the African Peer Review Mechanism, a consensus is yet to emerge on its exact, practical role. Yet, the provision suffers from no apparent semantic ambiguity. At the Abuja Summit in October 2002, only a dozen heads of state formally ratified the Peer Review Mechanism on behalf of their countries. Others pleaded for more time. Similarly, there has been an addition to the mechanism in question. After President Thabo Mbeki led a group that questioned the propriety of peer review, South Africa’s deputy Foreign Affairs Minister issued a statement that a second leg of the mechanism, composed of a small group of eminent persons would be charged with peer review, and only on economic matters. Peer review of political matters will instead be handled by institutions of the African Union, such as the new African Parliament and the African Commission on Human Rights. Regardless of its format, the importance of self-monitoring by Africa’s political leaders can hardly be over-emphasized.

The notions of ownership of NEPAD by the people and the accountability of political leaders through peer review have a direct bearing on the practice of citizenship. Citizenship, for Eriksen “entails not only to be ruled but also to rule in turn.” [47] Citizenship is a two-way phenomenon which emphasizes both the people’s civic obligations as well as the state’s moral responsibility to furnish all citizens with basic needs and protect their rights. By the same token, citizenship is a transactional exchange between governors and governed. It has the capability of making the public realm less acrimonious as well as legitimizing the state both domestically and internationally. Expressed this way, governance becomes “a way of engaging politics, including the need for changes in power relations.” [48]

A further challenge for the continent’s political leaders is to create meaningful, intelligible and sustained dialogue with the citizenry such that the latter can, also govern their governors. Leaders cannot run distant, alien and expect the people to understand what they are doing, let alone carry them along. The people will not give even elected leaders genuine allegiance if their relations with the state does little more than produce habitual obedience. Worse, “an exclusive and alien state cannot produce a comprehensive development project.” [49]

In consequence, Africa’s political leaders would have to exhibit a new political will make the claim of NEPAD’s ownership and proprietorship by the people a genuine one. That is to say, the people must be given a life of their own. As Allan and Dawood have argued, the blueprint’s conception of accountability must be redefined, through a transformation into an “internal relationship of accountability between African governments and their own citizens” and not just an external relation between African leaders and donor countries. [50] Trust has to be created and nurtured between the two parties through democratic consolidation, the deepening of democratic gains, the broadening of democratic reach, the constitution of more inclusive governments, and the enforcement of political and institutional democracy. Similarly, the leaders would have to deepen their understanding of democracy and legitimacy to include a strict observance of fundamental human rights and popular participation.

This political work is a social desideratum. Its major goal must be to support the many electoral democracies existing Africa with a view to decisively addressing the near-catastrophic material situation of millions of Africans. To be sure, this is often understood as a political work for the long term. Even so, democratically elected leaders would still have to show results, lest the people become wearied by an endless wait for the proverbial dividends of democracy.

Another major challenge elicited by the governance question is how to mobilize internal funds for implementing NEPAD. The logic of political accountability should consist foremost of working towards downsizing plethoric, over-bloated and highly centralized bureaucracies that have proved economically and politically ruinous. By so doing, Africa could free up funds for financing NEPAD. This is an important issue for it poses the question of how the continent’s financial resources are managed and what proportion are mobilized to finance development. The strong dependence on external funding of ‘development’ is held to be a function of lack of resources in Africa. But is this true? Slimmer, stronger states capable of creating a conducive environment for both the public and private sectors to generate wealth, redistribute prosperity, create employment and reduce poverty, would benefit immensely from a vigorously-pursued anti-corruption campaign. Ake discusses the urgent need to reduce the cost of politics and corruption. [51] In November 2002, the resident representative of the World Bank in Nigeria declared that that country spent no less than 80% of her annual revenues on running government!

Whilst NEPAD proposes, respectively, in paragraphs 83 and 188 (m) to adopt “effective measures to combat corruption and embezzlement” and put structures in place that would at once “combat corruption effectively” as well as ensure a repatriation of Africa’s stolen monies lodged in Euro-American banking vaults, experience shows that there is always a gap between precept and practice. [52] Corruption may be the affliction of humanity and not the exclusive preserve of any region, but it is little consolation that in many African countries anti-corruption laws are often treated with contempt and levity. [53] This is one area where parliamentary and civil society oversight of the state, as well as specialized, independent monitoring institutions can help Africa retrieve huge stolen monies to aid the capitalization of the continent’s development. [54] Further domestic resources can also come from those domestic business people and corporate groups who often evade tax with the connivance of corrupt state officials. But there is more political work required to move Africa close to the desired goal of self-reliance, where external funding will merely complement domestic resources. Now is the time to lay the first building blocks.

There is no alternative, for whilst the continent’s leaders expect more and better funding from the West as a reward for ‘good governance,’ the reality on the ground is that both external private and public capital flows are drying up. This is a no-win situation. What happens to the Western notion of ‘good governance’ if it conflicts with vital and strategic interests of the Great Powers? “Despite its wealth,” writes Helleiner, “the United States has the weakest aid performance record in the OECD (0.1% of GNP of which 30% goes to the Middle East); remains in serious arrears in its financial obligations to the UN; is so jealous of its sovereignty that it fails to ratify even some of the most obvious of international conventions relating to the world’s most vulnerable…” He adds, perhaps for effect, that “there is little reason to expect more leadership from the US government over the next four years.” [55] The latter is an obvious reference to the hawkish Bush administration. To be sure, the West is not reducible to the US but it is now so hegemonic as the sole superpower. It is inconceivable that the future of Africa will be left at the mercy of a US-dominated global hamlet.

In view of the foregoing, the debt peonage of the continent has to be confronted and addressed by African leaders in Africa’s interest, much in the same way that domestic and international civil society organizations have made considerable progress in attempts to find a people-friendly solution. NEPAD is timid on this issue, speaking only about the need to “accelerate debt reduction for heavily indebted African countries” as well as the improvement of “debt relief strategies for middle-income countries.” Why not simply call for debt cancellation since debt repayment is simply unsustainable insofar as it is wholly antithetical to development? [56] The debt question is a time-bomb ticking away, ready to explode. To all appearances, good governance and economic development will eventually be jeopardized if this issue is not resolved in a manner that will permit African countries to begin to function as veritable emerging democracies. If debts are written off, billions of dollars would be released into the coffers of various governments to build hope and a future for Africans. The money is needed to fill an estimated annual resource gap of 12% of the continent’s GDP. This should be complemented by living wages and the long-term benefit of a savings/ investment culture. Then the continent will accumulate appreciable capital outlays that should eventually make African businesses the drivers for the attraction of foreign capital, a point forcefully made by the Rt. Honorable Earl Cairns, Chair of the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) during the Commonwealth-African Investment Forum in Abuja in April 2002.


I have argued that globalization has essentially sliced up the world into two unequal and uneven parts in which, “only the strong are represented and the only the weak are punished.” [57] Whilst Africa’s internal politics have, undoubtedly contributed to this frightening economic backwardness, it has only compounded an essentially structural crisis engendered, ab initio, by a more debilitating external ecology. Expressed differently, there is too much of the West in Africa to allow Africa to design its future on its own terms. There is no alternative to making global economic governance humane. However, according to Austin, “there is no easy bridge between those who want to reform the world in their own image and those who question both the motive and remedy.” [58]

How does NEPAD address this issue? Not as rigorously and as robustly as one would have expected from a supposedly ‘new’ initiative. It appears too timid in terms of confronting the most nefarious manifestations of contemporary globalization. As mentioned earlier, the document does not critically interrogate received Western paradigms of development. Not unlike the ‘civilizing’ mission of colonialism, the hegemonic discourse of development in relation to Africa “was framed not in the language of emancipation or justice but with the vocabulary of charity, technical expertise, neutrality and a deep paternalism…that was its syntax”. [59] Rather than seek an alternative paradigm of development that would anchor the foundations of its actions on its own history and culture, NEPAD authors simply bought into the ‘final triumph of bourgeois rationality’ and ‘the end of history’. [60] Yet these are paradigms of development that have zero tolerance for “alternative pathways to social development.” [61] An alternative development paradigm would necessarily have to take into consideration that “the debt burden, not economic development, has become the legacy of 40 years of foreign aid.” [62] The issue therefore, is not about more aid. In the words of the World Bank’s President, James D. Wolfensohn, “aid must be effective for reform to take hold.” [63] It is not too late for NEPAD to retrace its steps at the risk of a probable indifferent response from the continent’s development partners.

To say that NEPAD should be reworked to reflect Africa’s culture and history is not to suggest that the continent should completely turn its back on the global system. On the contrary, the call is for a developmental state that has the capacity to make and implement policies in relative autonomy, with a view to engendering socially beneficial goods and values to the greatest number of the people. It is a state that will adapt, appropriate and harness the power of markets in the social interest. A state that, in the words of Olukoshi, will play a central role “in defining a framework, setting targets and formulating policy options for their realization, including the possible role which could be played by the local and foreign private sector.” [64] In other words, such a state would seek a judicious balance between the market and grand political acts. As Mkandawire and Soludo have argued “African economies are market economies…Development policies will…have to be keenly responsive to the capacities and weaknesses of both states and markets in Africa and seek to mobilize the former while correcting the latter. Dogmatic faith in either planning or markets will not do.” [65] A developmental state is also a caring and democratic state capable of enlisting the support of the majority of the people in the arduous task of carrying out development.

But a developmental state will have to be preceded by a mix of several factors and variables: a return to the people in their various civic and communal societies with a view to creating bold, far-reaching and indigenous development plans the people will truly own; a humanist critique of globalization; a rethinking of practices of governance, both locally and externally; and the development of consensual politics by progressively freeing the state from the stranglehold of private interests of ‘state classes’. Helleiner evokes the need for a blend, at the global level, of ‘political statesmanship from above’ and a ‘supportive political pressure from below’ to render the global village humane. [66] The blend is also much needed at the domestic African level. Helleiner adds, as if he had NEPAD authors in mind, that “middle powers, non-G7 members and groupings of developing countries can play a critical role in promoting and initiating appropriate change.” [67] The authors and their countries seem to fit the bill. But do they have the necessary political will to play this role?


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[1] Williams 2002, 653.
[2] Chabal 2002, 449.
[3] Alex de Waal’s 2002, 464.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Cooper 2001, 192-3.
[6] Ibid, 2001, 200ff.
[7] Ibid 2002, 206.
[8] Mazrui 1999.
[9] The Economist 2002; Legum 2002.
[10] Manji and O’Coill 2002, 580
[11] Rugumamu 2001, 5.
[12] Bello, Walden “Why Reform of the WTO is the Wrong Agenda”
[13] Ibid.
[14] Maxwell and Christiansen 2002, 480.
[15] Ake 2001, 6.
[16] Lester 2000, 280.
[17] Collier 2000. In Lester 2000.
[18] Cooper 2001, 207.
[19] Gerhart 2001, 195.
[20] Fischer 2001, 40; Amuwo 2001.
[21] Helleiner 2001, 248, 257.
[22] Germain 2001, 420-421.
[23] NEPAD 2001, v1.
[24] Ibid, 1.
[25] Manji and O’Coill 2002, 579.
[26] Carlos 2000, 164; See also Tsikata 2001, 16.
[27] Herbst and Soludo 2001, 666.
[28] Tsikata 2001, 3-4.
[29] Killick, cited in Tsikata, 2001, 4.
[30] Ibid, 4.
[31] Sachs 2002, 20.
[32] Bryld 2000, 701; Elsenhans 2002, 35; Hyden 2001, 16; Perkins 2000, 879; Rakodi, 2001, 344.
[33] Weiss 2000, 803.
[34] Scanlon 2001, 497.
[35] Weiss 2000, 804.
[36] Gerhart 2001, 194.
[37] Declaration on Africa's Development Challenges, Adopted at end of Joint CODESRIA- TWN-AFRICA Conference on Africa's Development Challenges in the Millennium, Accra 23-26 April, 2002 (
[38] Mukandala 2001, 8.
[39] Mark 2001, 93.
[40] NEPAD 2001, 9.
[41] Ibid, 9.
[42] Tsikata, 2001, 4.
[43] Ibid.
[44] NEPAD 2001, paragraph 84.1, p 21.
[45] Ibid, 21.
[46] Ibid 21.
[47] Ericksen 2002. Cited in Horeth 2002, 12.
[48] Hyden 2001, 18.
[49] Lumumba-Kasongo 2002, 103.
[50] Allan and Dawood 2002, 24-25.
[51] Ake 2000, 8.
[52] NEPAD 2001, 22; 59.
[53] Amuwo 1997/98.
[54] Allan and Dawood 2002, 25.
[55] Helleiner 2001, 250.
[56] Poku 2002, 541.
[57] Edwards 2001, 26.
[58] Austin 2001, 502.
[59] Manji and O’Coill 2002, 574
. [60] Lumumba-Kasongo 2002, 85.
[61] Rugumamu 2002, 54.
[62] Rugumamu 2001, 32.
[63] Cited in Deverajan 2001, xii.
[64] Olukoshi 2002, 82.
[65] Mkandawire and Soludo 1999, 141.
[66] Helleiner 2001, 260.
[67] Ibid, 260.

Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article: Amuwo, 'Kunle. "Globalisation, NEPAD, and the Governance Question in Africa." African Studies Quarterly 6, no. 3: [online] URL:

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