Wednesday, February 3, 2010



On the right,Thabo Mbeki, Obasanjo and Abdulahi Wade with George W Bush at one of the many G8 meetings

By Jerry Okungu
Last week I was itching to pen a scathing attack on those Kenyan MPs that went to Naivasha to redraft the draft of our impending constitution. Had it not been for the good counsel of my colleagues, I would really have gone ahead with my unflattering remarks at a time when most Kenyans were patting themselves on the back for a “deal well deserved”. A week later, I’m not sure if those pats were not misplaced.
However, this week, an even more tragic news has caught my attention from Addis Ababa. It would look like the parting shot before the African elders left Addis Ababa was to announce that NEPAD was no more!

This incident reminded me of my 1999 conversation with a highly ranked African American, then a senior executive with Coca-Cola Africa based in Johannesburg. At that time I had teamed up with other Africans from the continent to launch a Pan African Broadcasting, Heritage and Achievement Awards. Based in South Africa, with the support of Moletsi Mbeki, Thabo’s brother and Olusegun Obasanjo, then President of Nigeria, everything looked like we were ready to fly.

After talking to my African American friend for awhile at the Hyatt Hotel where we both resided, he gave me a piece of advice. After praising the idea as godsend for Africa; an idea that would rival the Oscar, Emmy and Grammy Awards all combined, he warned me that it would not fly beyond two years. When I asked why he thought we would not survive beyond two years, he gave me a string of grand ideas that had emerged from Africa and died their natural deaths. He cited the All Africa Games, All Africa Trade Fair, FESTAC, the COMESA Common Currency, the UAPTA and many regional organizations that had collapsed.

True to his prediction, our PABHA collapsed on its second birthday in Nigeria where it was born. With Obasanjo’s initial financial support in 2000, no other African government was willing to support it as the private sector was still waiting to see if governments would take the lead!

For some of us who have been involved with NEPAD at one point in its short life, just eight years, it was obvious to us that the jinx of child mortality rate for great African ideas would finally catch up sooner rather than later with the African sensation that took the developed world with a storm.

I remember with nostalgia the NEPAD-APRM heydays in 2005 when eminent African heads of state were a permanent fixture of the G8 meetings. In those days, there was no World Economic Conference that could be missed by Thabo Mbeki, Olusegun Obasanjo, and John Kufuor. Indeed at the Gleneagles G8 Conference in Scotland, the same G8 promised Africa a rescue package through NEPAD to the tune of US 50billion rescue package to get the continent out of its misery. To date, not a cent has been released.

Kenyans and Ugandans will remember the fanfare that accompanied their peer review processes. For Kenya, it was a double barreled celebration when the celebrated Nelson Mandela accompanied his wife Graca Machel in Kenya for 14 days of the country review.
It was truly a moment when most of Africa was convinced that the era of good governance and infrastructure development had finally arrived through the twin visions.

Now, hardly five years later, all those lofty dreams are quickly fading away and with the death of NEPAD early this week, it will be a miracle if un-reviewed African states will ever bother with the process. They will point fingers at Kenya, South Africa, Ghana and Uganda and ask if anything has really changed since their first review. They will point fingers at Sudan, Somalia, Benin and Guinea and ask if the AU, the mother of the now dead NEPAD is relevant in the first place.

But who indeed killed NEPAD? Was it the bureaucratic AU management or the bureaucrats, political sycophants and academics that were posted to run these institutions without having any clue as to the mandates of these organizations?
What exactly were the mandates of NEPAD and APRM? What happened to the millions of dollars raised from development partners and member states for programme activities? Who slept on the job to make President Abdulahi Wade demand to see a kilometer of road built by NEPAD after five years of its existence?

What killed NEPAD was sheer ineptitude on the part of those that were appointed to run it. The bad habits of African governments, where merit and competence are downgraded when it comes to lucrative appointments either at home or abroad are what killed NEPAD. Characters that had no passion for Pan Africanism headed these pan African institutions. When they got to these positions, instead of building structures for these institutions, they were busy jumping from international talk shop to another spending huge donor funds on air tickets, hotel bills and their daily allowances.

Year in year out, funds were raised but nothing tangible could be seen happening on the ground. And before we knew it, tough wars and corporate politics crept in pitting CEOs against their subordinates. And as these negative developments took root; the little that there was, quickly faded away.

With the demise of NEPAD, another great African dream is gone!