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Moving ‘from rhetoric to action’

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Moving ‘from rhetoric to action’

UN panel on NEPAD highlights aid quality, private sector
Africa Renewal
From Africa Renewal: 
UN / Eskinder Debebe

Africa deserves and requires more external assistance to ensure the success of its New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), argues a special advisory panel on international support for Africa. “NEPAD cannot succeed without a significant increase in support from the international community,” said Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the chair of the panel, who submitted its recommendations to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 3 June.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku (right), chair of the advisory panel, with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Chief Emeka Anyaoku (right), chair of the advisory panel, with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Photograph: UN / Eskinder Debebe

Not only do developed countries need to increase their support in such diverse areas as aid, debt relief, market access and capital flows, says the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Panel on International Support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, but they also must ensure that such backing is coordinated and that progress in one area is not counteracted by shortfalls in another.

Similar calls for more aid to Africa have been raised in other recent reports, Chief Anyaoku acknowledged in an interview with Africa Renewal. But his panel not only urges the various actors to move “from rhetoric to action” — as the report is entitled; it also places a greater emphasis on the quality of the aid that is given. “The grant element to these aid flows should be much higher than the 25 per cent which seems to have been generally assumed.”

Another feature is that the advisory panel puts a stronger accent on the role of the private sector in unleashing Africa’s development potential. “Entrepreneurship is common in Africa,” Mr. Anyaoku said. Small- and medium-scale enterprises need more help from both governments and external partners “to ignite them.”

In his preface to the panel’s report, he similarly emphasizes that Africa’s development “requires harnessing the creativity and dynamism of private initiative in a range of areas, including agriculture, industry, science and technology, and infrastructure development.” He adds that strengthening private initiative will also require “an efficient, supportive and capable public sector.”

In addition, Mr. Anyaoku told Africa Renewal, the panel stresses “the importance of African leaders living up to their commitments on NEPAD, their commitment to improving their economic and political governance.”

‘A new opportunity’

Africa and the international community had previous development strategies for the continent, but “none of them lived up to the promises made,” the report observes. It adds, however, that a “new opportunity” now exists with NEPAD. Today, most African leaders are democratically elected and more than two dozen governments have agreed to have their governance policies scrutinized under NEPAD’s African Peer Review Mechanism. There also is greater consensus within the development community on what needs to be done and foreign assistance has been focusing to an increasing extent on countries pursuing good policies.

After consulting with a wide range of prominent figures from African countries, donor agencies and multilateral institutions, the panel is recommending a number of key external actions that would be most effective in advancing the priorities of NEPAD and helping Africa make progress towards the world community’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Those recommendations include:

Greater, more focused aid: The panel “fully endorses” recent calls by the Group of Eight industrialized countries, the UN Millennium Project team, the UK’s Commission on Africa and others for a substantial increase in overall flows of development aid, with at least half of that assistance channeled to sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, aid should be targeted at African countries with good policy environments. Donor agencies should better coordinate their interventions, align them with poverty-reduction strategies, provide a significantly greater percentage of aid in the form of grants and make sustained commitments, on a multi-year basis.

Wider debt relief: Since the debt-servicing payments of poor African countries remain far too high and existing debt-relief mechanisms have not solved the problem, the panel recommends 100 per cent debt cancellation for all low-income countries in Africa, including for those not currently eligible for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. In addition, it calls for “significant relief” for middle income countries heavily in debt. More care must also be taken that the money saved from such relief is used by African countries to advance the development objectives enshrined in the MDGs.

Freeing trade: The panel recognizes that the freeing of trade can play an important role in Africa’s development, and that African nations and their trade partners alike need to do more. African countries that are net exporters of agricultural goods would benefit from reductions of domestic agricultural subsidies in the European Union and US. But net importers could be harmed in the short term and would require assistance to help them adjust. As Mr. Anyaoku explained to Africa Renewal, for these importers “some special measures would need to be put into place to protect them against the sudden rise in prices that would follow with the ending of agricultural subsidies.” Meanwhile, the international community should allocate more aid to build up Africa’s infrastructure, in order to help stimulate trade and exports.

Enhanced private capital flows: Africa needs more private capital flows, the panel observes, citing one of the objectives of NEPAD. Developed countries should promote policies that encourage more flows of foreign direct investment and private remittances to Africa, suggests the panel. African countries themselves also need to do more to improve their investment climates, and both developed countries and multilateral agencies can help by providing technical and financial assistance for those efforts.

Better external coordination: The panel notes that the problems of lack of coordination that plague bilateral aid agencies “also tend to afflict the operations of the UN system in Africa.” It therefore calls on the various components of the UN system to make greater efforts to work together to provide focused and coordinated support to NEPAD. Towards that end, says Chief Anyaoku, the role of the UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) should be expanded. The panel further argues that the UN and the African Union need to act in greater partnership to improve monitoring of international pledges and aid disbursements to Africa.

The panel itself intends to prepare a supplementary report in early 2006 to assess progress in international support for Africa’s development, by looking specifically at the outcomes of upcoming international summits, including the Group of Eight, European Union and the MDG review summit of the UN General Assembly.

Success, Chief Anyaoku adds, cannot be measured solely by the number of consultations, meetings and plans, but also by concrete outcomes. “People’s lives must change,” he says. “International support must yield results-based action that unleashes Africa’s human potential and the economic potential of the formal and informal private sector.”

Members of advisory panel

The UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Panel on International Support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development was appointed in July 2004. In addition to its chair, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who is a former secretary-general of the Commonwealth, it includes 12 other prominent African and international figures. They are:

  • Mr. Jagdish Bhagwati (India), a well-known economist
  • Mr. Kwesi Botchwey, a former finance minister of Ghana
  • Mr. Richard Jolly, a former deputy executive-director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • Ms. Anne Kristin-Sydnes, a former minister of development cooperation of Norway
  • Mr. Michel Camdessus (France), a former managing director of the International Monetary Fund
  • Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, a former anti-apartheid leader in South Africa
  • Mr. Misaki Miyaji, executive vice-president of the Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan
  • Prof. Fantu Cheru (Ethiopia), a professor at American University in Washington, DC
  • Prof. Ricardo Hausmann, a former minister of finance of Venezuela and ex-chief economist of the Inter-American Development Bank
  • Ms. Carol Lancaster, a former US deputy assistance secretary of state for Africa
  • Dr. Julienne Ngo Som, a former minister of social affairs in Cameroon
  • Dr. Ismail Serageldin (Egypt), a former vice-president for sustainable development at the World Bank
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