Five decades ago, Africa was still perceived in the image of Conrad’s “The Heart of Darkness”. Five decades the global media driven by the need to drive up circulation, still tends to portray abysmal images of emaciated children dying from severe malnutrition, young Somali pirates touting machine guns on the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa, religious fanatics ransacking villages in Northern Uganda, marauding Janjaweed in the Darfur region and so on. These images perpetuate the 1960’s perception of Africa blighted by military coups, rampant abuse of state power, civil wars, and so on. Meanwhile there have been massive changes for the better.
The truth may be less compelling for journalists catering for foreign urban well off readerships but with the help of McKinsey Associates, the UK Foresight Group and others a very different truth is emerging of Africa’s emerging “lion” economies. National economies have grown with 18 countries exceeding growth rates of 5.5% per annum for over a decade. Stock markets have yielded about 29% and agriculture has been growing faster than the world average.
NEPAD and its vision represent this wave of change that is shaping Africa. NEPAD represents a paradigm ship in development theory and practice in Africa. When the African leaders founded NEPAD in 2001, they were sending a powerful statement to the African and global community, the message was loud and clear, the key issue is that they were now committed to defining a new development agenda for the transformation of the African continent.
NEPAD reflects the belief of all African leaders that they have the responsibility, working in partnership with the African peoples, to address the lack of development and growth in the continent, the pressing problems of poverty and social exclusion facing the majority of the population, and Africa’s increasing marginalisation from global markets for goods, services and capital.
One of the problems associated with past and current development plans is that they were not backed up by the necessary political will that is required to meet the commitments made, both on the part of many of the African leaders and on the part of the development partner community; and, in part, the absence of monitoring mechanisms to ensure that governments inside and outside the continent lived up to such commitments. This is where the need for forging partnerships in development becomes fundamental.
There is therefore a growing sense of realism that the challenges of development are unlikely to be realised without promoting partnership formations at different levels: International, governments, civil society and private sector.