opinionBy Gloria Umeukeje
Over the years, African continent has suffered from poverty, disease and unprecedented backwardness. It has been impoverished and remains the poorest continent despite being one of the most richly endowed with natural and human resources in the regions of the world. In global scheme, Africa has been marginalised by the developed world. The consequence of these has been continuous dependence on the developed world for aid and credit facilities which has left African States in perpetual debt.
A more disturbing dimension is the effect of this underdevelopment, hunger and disease. A greater percentage of Africans live below poverty line while majority do not have access to drinking water, health facilities, basic education and other basic infrastructure.
In the face of this stark reality, came the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) which is a vision, strategic policy framework for the socio-economic development of Africa.
NEPAD is a pledge by African Leaders, based on common vision and a firm and shared conviction, that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and to place their countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development and, at the same time, to participate actively in the world economy and body politic.
As a programme, NEPAD is driven by the determination of Africans to extricate themselves and the continent from the malaise of underdevelopment and exclusion in a globalising world. It is both a programme of reformation in governance, and of building capacity for the continent. NEPAD stands to reverse this ugly trend of poverty, disease and under development by changing the existing relationship of the continent's/developed world through abandoning the old system of dependence on and solicitation of aid and rather look inwards. Simply put, African leaders through NEPAD, decided to wage war on poverty, disease and underdevelopment by harnessing their abundant resources, human skills, capital and technology. The strategy is to mobilise these resources and put them in the best use for the people of Africa.
NEPAD as a programme, represents the resolve and collective will of Africans that take this stand, Africans still believe in global partnership based on shared responsibility and mutual interest and thus, invites the developed world to partner with them to step up positive/meaningful partnership with Africa for real development. This invitation is indeed a call for new relationship between Africa and the developed world, a relationship that is based on partnership.
As the vision of NEPAD is to eradicate poverty and put African Countries both individually and collectively on the path of sustainable growth and development, it therefore means that NEPAD is to serve as a framework for forging a new partnership between Africa and the International Community based on mutual respect. It also offers a common platform upon which domestic and regional poverty reduction strategies shall be focused and mainstreamed and serve as an African strategy for achieving sustainable development in the 21st century. NEPAD is also to impose peer pressure on member States for good governance, democracy and observance of fundamental human rights; and offer a common platform to curtail corruption, undemocratic governance, economic mismanagement and promote conflict resolution.
The major priority areas of NEPAD are therefore to operationalise the African Peer Review mechanism; Facilitate and support implementation of the short-term regional infrastructure programmes in the areas of Transport, Energy, ICT, Water and sanitation as well as implementation of agricultural development programmes to ensure food security in all sub-regions; Facilitate the preparation of a coordinated African position on policy issues including global market Access, debt relief and Monitor, evaluate and intervenes, as appropriate, to ensure the achievement of the millennium Development Goals, especially, in the areas of health and education.
In effect, NEPAD became a Technical Agency charged with the overarching responsibility of planning, coordinating and implementing projects and programmes to fast track development and economic growth initiative across the continent with a cascading effect at the regional, national and sub-national levels.
Since the establishing of NEPAD Nigeria office in 2003, the agency has grappled with the challenge of domesticating its programmes at the Federal, State and Local Government levels. High point of this challenge has been the difficulty in getting different segments of the Nigerian society to understand the concept and programme of NEPAD.
A more disturbing challenge that has slowed down the operations of NEPAD Nigeria is lack of an enabling law; as a legal entity, it would be easy for NEPAD Nigeria to enter into effective partnership with local and foreign agencies. Today, NEPAD Nigeria operates a full civil service structure. The implication of this is the constant deployment and redeployment of officers with the pool system. This has stalled continuity in office and slowed down the domestication process.
It is however hoped that with the enabling law in place, NEPAD Nigeria will be in the position to transform into a commission. The status of a commission will confer on NEPAD the advantage of hiring and controlling its officers, thereby putting an end to the exodus of officers with its attendant problem of discontinuity and instability. NEPAD Nigeria will also be able to draw funding from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, there would be an increase funding to carry out its functions and programmes and Build effective partnership with local and foreign institutions. It will better monitor and evaluate the implementation of NEPAD's programmes in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to ensure compliance with NEPAD goals. Status of a commission will Promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation at regional and continental levels, Propel development at federal, state and local levels to meet the vision 20:2020 through effective domestication of its programmes.
From all indications, attainment of status of a Commission would place NEPAD Nigeria on a better pedestal to carry out its mandate. Relevant organs of Government, especially the National assembly should support NEPAD Nigeria to achieve this. NEPAD Nigeria needs all legal backing and financial muscle as a continental body to function effectively to realize the transformation agenda of the present administration and development in general.