Banjul — There has been an intellectual row over the New Partnership for African Development (Nepad) by African NGOs participating at the NGO Forum preceding the 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
NGOs from all over the continent participating at the forum have strongly expressed mixed feelings over the way the new African development initiative was being driven by African heads of states. Many believed that the initiative had not involved the participation of ordinary Africans.
The initiative which John Kakonge, the UNDP Resident Representative to The Gambia said was anchored by the determination of Africans to extricate themselves and the continent from the malaise of under development and exclusion in a globalising world, has got many challenges to face.
Kakonge said: "It needs a sophisticated and comprehensive system of coordination which should be regionally realistic and well-costed." H expressed optimism about Nepad, saying: "The new partnership seeks to build on the achievements of the past as well as reflect on the lessons learned through painful experience so as to establish a partnership that is both credible and capable of implementation." However some African NGOs at the forum argued, "it's been donor-driven and not home grown and which is not participatory." A participant from Nigeria wondered if the initiative would not only cost Africa more debts as only "6 billion dollars was donated to us by westerners and we need between 50 and 60 billion dollars to implement the initiative. Doesn't that mean we have to still go borrowing?" he asked.
The participant wondered how the United States of America would go spending about 200 billion dollar (as reported in a US magazine) in a potential war against Iraq and Africa needs just between 50 and 60 billion dollars to fund major development work.
Mr Muhammed Genedy, a participant from Egypt was highly sceptical about the possibilities of a success driven Nepad. "My country which was one of the pioneers of the idea has not even started a campaign in Egypt. I have not seen it published in the paper or on TV," he said.
He however warned against the quick rush by African leaders who he said have not even involved their own people.
The initiative, Mr Genedy said, involving the privatisation of the African public sector in the Nepad blueprint should be properly looked into. "Is that not privatising our economies?," he asked.
An example of such privatisation (revealed by another participant) was the Senegalese Government's privatisation of the water sector to the French and which was said to have cost the people more.
Mrs Sara Hlupekile Longwe, from Zambia raised concern over the non-involvement of women in the potential participation of Nepad which she described as "Nepad's reluctance to address gender issues".
She said the discrimination of women in the document was again seen in the context of the African Union, "which is seen as a collection of patriarchal states with a record in this area of high level commitments and low level action.
"For action on gender issues, the Nepad document is not seen as a turning point, but rather as a continuation of the previous miserable strategies," she said.
She however highlighted gender issues and other frameworks which Nepad must incorporate.
Some participants from across the continent also said the Nepad initiative had not included agriculture which should be a priority to the African people. Minority and indigenous peoples' rights, and the African Commission not inclusive.
Other NGOs however believed that it is a good development initiative that shouldn't be totally objected and if the initiative would survive, there was a need for an inclusive process which should involve the participation of the African people.
"It should first be part of the national planning process and should be internalised and nationally driven before it is regionalised," said UNDP Kakonge who seemed optimistic about Nepad.