Launched amid much fanfare by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and other continental luminaries in 2001, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) promised a fresh era of progress through a dynamic agency freed from the constraints of Africa’s tired leadership structures. With lofty goals to “eradicate poverty, promote sustainable growth and development, integrate Africa in the world economy, and accelerate the empowerment of women,” the agency capitalised on the excitement of an international community transfixed by the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. “We are essentially saying that surely the time has come that as the African continent we should say [there must be] an end to the underdevelopment of the continent, an end to the poverty and there must be an end to conflict,” Mbeki boldly proclaimed in 2002.
Today, NEPAD’s Planning and Coordination Agency – soon to become the African Union Development Agency – is attempting to carve out a new role for itself in a very different landscape. With Mbeki and other high-profile backers retired from the scene, chief executive Ibrahim Mayaki, a former prime minister of Niger, faces a battle to prove NEPAD’s relevance on a continent where multi-billion dollar infrastructure schemes and the private sector are seen as the crucial drivers of development.
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