‘A historic moment’ that is how the Chairman of the African Union Commission (AUC), Jean Ping, described the inaugural meeting of the NEPAD Coodinating Unit, established by the African Union to oversee the integration of NEPAD into the processes and structures of the AU.
Officially opening the meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 10 June 2008, Jean Ping said: “Africa is reassessing its institutions in line with its challenges and needs. If Africa is to effectively compete with the rest of the world, it must ensure a strong and capacitated institutional base”. Among those present were the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission; Commissioners for Economic Affairs, Human Resources, Science and Technology, and Energy and Infrastructure; Ambassador Olukorede Willoughby, Acting Chief Executive of NEPAD; a NEPAD delegation; and distinguished guests.
In his opening speech the Chairman of the AUC underlined that “since the 1970s Africa had been in search of a policy framework to guide socio-economic transformation of the continent and place it on a path towards sustainable development”. It was in this context that the New Africa Initiative (NAI) was created by the 37th Organisation of African Unity Summit in Lusaka, Zambia, on July 11, 2001. It was also during this time that the creation of the African Union was launched.
The Implementation Committee of the Heads of State and Government later changed the NAI to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and NEPAD was adopted as an integrated and comprehensive socio-economic development programme of the African Union. Thus, the overarching objective of NEPAD has been the eradication of poverty, the promotion of sustainable development as well as to arrest the marginalisation of Africa under globalisation. With the many pressing challenges facing the continent today, these objectives are rendered ever more pertinent.
The problems of poverty and hunger, lack of political and economic stability, insecurity and poor infrastructure are key among the issues that must be dealt with if Africa is to reduce poverty and attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015, as well as achieve sustainable growth and development. In recent times, there have also been new challenges, including climate change and rising food and oil prices, that ought to be dealt with decisively.
It is within this context that coherence must be achieved between the African Union and NEPAD in order to deal effectively with the pressing development problems and challenges of today commented Jean Ping. However, he also claimed that there has been an apparent overlap and duplication of the mandate of NEPAD and the activities of the African Union, which have impeded both organisations in dealing effectively with the development problems and challenges facing the continent.
In adddition, he emphasized during the meeting that the duplication of efforts between NEPAD and the African Union is, among others, one of the reasons why the African Heads of State and Government have taken several decisions in the past aimed at integrating NEPAD into the African Union. These decisions have emanated from the Maputo Summit decision of 2003, which agreed to fully integrate NEPAD into the processes and structures of the African Union (AU) within a period of three years or until a time when the structures and processes of the AU become operational.
Despite numerous efforts, the integration of NEPAD has taken five years to take effect due to a number of factors. However, the commitment of the Heads of State and Government to the integration process was evidenced by the decision of the 10 th AU Assembly in Addis Ababa in January/February 2008, which adopted a resolution to proceed with the integration of NEPAD, immediately and expeditiously. There, it was resolved that the 13-point conclusions of the 18th NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee (HSGIC) Brainstorming Summit held in Algiers, Algeria, on March 21, 2007 should form the basis of the integration process.
These 13 points recommended, among others, the transformation of the NEPAD Secretariat into a NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Authority, the structure and profile of which should be defined later through a study to be commissioned by the African Union Commission. Moreover, they included the creation of this Coordinating Unit, which should elaborate a detailed roadmap on the integration of NEPAD and the creation of the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Authority, with clear steps, stages, milestones and indicators.
Thus, Jean Ping notes that these recent decisions place Africa in a historic moment: it is reassessing its institutions in line with its challenges and needs. If Africa is to effectively compete with the rest of the world, it must ensure a strong and capacitated institutional base. Consequently, as the integration of NEPAD into the AU gets underway, there is a need to ensure that the paralysis that has gripped NEPAD due to lack of clarity is addressed. At the same time, there is need to ensure that the NEPAD Secretariat has leadership through the speedy recruitment of a new Chief Executive Officer.
It is also imperative that the terms of reference for the Coordinating Unit are agreed and finalised. In this regard, I invite you, members of the Coordinating Unit, to focus on what Africa requires to achieve the AU vision and NEPAD objectives. The terms of reference for the study on NEPAD integration into AU structures and processes must also be finalised and a consultant recruited to undertake the work. It is imperative that the study seeks to address the funding gap affecting NEPAD and make recommendations on sustainable funding mechanisms.