Zimbabwe Standard (Harare)
November 23, 2003
The New Partnership for African Development (Nepad), which many of Africa’s leaders have pinned their hopes on for economic recovery, has been blasted by civil society as another form of colonialism and imperialism.
Civil society leaders, meeting under the first ever Southern Africa Social Forum (SASF) in Zambia last week, charged that Nepad was a foreign owned initiative with “African elite kinship” from the powerful G8 countries and the main institutions responsible for corporate globalisation.
The rebuff might threaten the two-year-old project and could be a major setback to several African presidents, including South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki and the Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo, who have been championing Nepad as a home-grown African economic initiative.
Nepad, an initiative of several African leaders for the economic revival and development of Africa, was launched in Abuja, Nigeria, in October 2001.
It aims to tap into Western money by promising that recipient countries would subject themselves to a peer review group that would monitor issues such as good governance, democracy, human rights and a free Press, among others.
Nepad has been embraced by the key Group of 8 industrialised countries and the United Nations, which hopes that its implementation will assist African countries to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
The goals seek to halve poverty in Africa by the year 2015. International financial institutions, among them the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have hailed Nepad as a major project to reduce poverty on the continent.
Delegates who attended the forum in Lusaka told Standard Business that through Nepad, African leaders were lending their weight to the agenda of the West.
Jonah Gokova, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Social Forum, said the forum unanimously agreed that the globalisation process, dominated by the giant transitional corporations from the North, is impacting negatively on the people in the region.
“We noted the ways in which many of our governments have supported this agenda. We rejected Nepad as an expression of support by certain leaders of our continent for the world’s elite at the expense of the majority in the Southern African region, and the continent as a whole,” said Gokova.
The forum said it noted with serious concern the role of the South African government and the dominant expansion of South African corporations throughout the region at the expense of local economies.
“We rejected this new form of colonialism and sub-imperialism,” the forum said in a statement.
The forum also rejected the IMF-prescribed Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and the two Bretton Woods institutions’ poverty reduction programmes as nothing other than the continuation of structural adjustment.
The meeting demanded the unconditional cancellation of the “odious debt” owed to the two institutions and other Western creditors.
On privatisation, which is gathering tempo in the region, the forum said the programme has put social services out of the reach of the majority and must be vigorously opposed.
Among other countries, Zimbabwe is in the process of restructuring its power utility, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa), other and several entities.
Some council operations and services at tertiary institutions have also been privatised, leaving students at the receiving end.
Tony Hawkins, a local economic analyst, was however dismissive of the concerns of the civil society, saying the rejection of Nepad is coming from “people who don’t think”.
“These people are rejecting a word because my understanding of Nepad is that it is a set of goals and objectives which are for the benefit of Africa,” said Hawkins, a respected Harare-based business lecturer.