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The African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD): Restoring a relationship challenged?

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Abstract:

Africa faces a dual challenge of governance and development, with institutional and implementation crises looming large. Whereas the continent has gone through an energetic period of diplomacy during the decade 1998–2008, in which institutions and programmes like the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) have been established, we have also witnessed serious problems revealing themselves. One such problem has been institutional rivalries which served to undermine the continent’s political and development agendas, and one such enmity was the tension and rancour between the AU and NEPAD. The newly elected Chair of the AU Commission in Addis Ababa will have to address such serious institutional tensions and rivalries in the continent. The relationship between the AU and NEPAD has exposed competition over status, scarce financial and human resources, policy influence and petty squabbles amongst diplomats and officials. The tensions between these poorly anchored and weakly consolidated institutions and initiatives have prompted some to suggest that NEPAD needed to be fully integrated into the AU and to fall under the command and control of the AU as premier body. When the AU finally settled on the idea of ‘integration’ after years of prevarication and equivocation, new institutional and human resource capacity building challenges began showing themselves. This was not all, however. A political leadership vacuum was added to the series of problems which bedevilled the continent, and African pivotal states like South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Algeria and others, who were all instrumental in crafting the continent’s new, post-Cold War order, failed to demonstrate the necessary agency and leadership. While there is no doubting that NEPAD is a programme of the AU, its role should be, amongst others, to bolster technical and operational expertise, and support the AU and its processes, and become instrumental in facilitating, conceptualising, and even implementing policies. Crucially, NEPAD could and should provide technical backstopping for the AU and its organs, and become directly involved in promoting capacity building for the AU and regional economic communities (RECs). It has a vital role to play in ensuring that new processes of monitoring and evaluation are introduced within the context of African inter-state politics and diplomacy, and also in helping to ensure that programmes of the AU are implemented and African states and international partners meet their obligations towards the AU. NEPAD’s niche with regard to resource mobilisation should be bolstered. The AU for its part needs to urgently address its very serious institutional capacity constraints, and to focus squarely on the need to restore Africa’s international agency and leadership. African Journal On Conflict Resolution, 12(2) 2012

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