Historical context: Origins and influences
By the 1970s and 1980s, many African countries were liberated, but these were also decades that were characterised by political instability, military coups, one-party governments, dictatorships and the heightened influence of Cold War politics in African affairs. Faced with the onset of an economic crisis – huge foreign debts and declines in social development – and the failure of the international financial institutions' free market policies, African countries tried to reverse these trends by calling for a new international economic order (NIEO) through which they could craft self-reliant, culturally relevant and state-influenced development strategies.
In such a context, African leaders found it necessary to transform the focus of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) from political liberation to economic development. Hence, throughout the 1980s and 1990s African governments went on to design a series of pan-African development approaches which they felt were relevant to the needs of their people. These initiatives included: the Lagos Plan of Action (1980), the Final Act of Lagos (1980), Africa's Priority Programme for Economic Recovery (1986-1990), the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programme (1989), the African (Arusha) Charter for Popular Participation and Development (1990), the Abuja Treaty (1991) and the Cairo Agenda (1994) amongst others.
Faced with the failures of these plans, the ills of the structural adjustment programmes of modernisation and falling growth rates when other regions such as Asia were on the rise, 'a new breed of African leaders' entered the 21st century with proclamations of a re-birth for Africa.
It is in this regard that the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) is the result of three parallel initiatives. The first is the Millennium Africa Recovery Plan (MAP), led by South African President Thabo Mbeki and unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2001. The second initiative is the Omega Plan, crafted by the President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, and presented to the Summit of Francophone African leaders in Cameroon in January 2001. MAP and the Omega Plan were then combined to give birth to a third initiative the New African Initiative (NAI) that then led to NEPAD in 2001.
All three initiatives shared a common interest in increasing the pace and impact of Africa's development. While these initiatives share common characteristics, there were also differences reflecting the regional and other priorities of the enactors. Compromises had to be made in order to merge the three proposals into one initiative. NEPAD thus reflects the compromises involved in arriving at a single initiative.
Founding member countries of NEPAD included South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt and Senegal.
NEPAD was adopted by African Heads of State and Government of the OAU in 2001 and was ratified by the African Union (AU) in 2002 to address Africa's development problems within a new paradigm. NEPAD's main objectives are to reduce poverty, put Africa on a sustainable development path, halt the marginalization of Africa, and empower women.
The mechanism for Africa's development – today and tomorrow
Since its initiation, NEPAD has been promoted widely both within Africa and in the industrialised North. NEPAD is now recognised as Africa's development plan by all the governments of the North, and the international financial institutions, and by many international governance institutions like the United Nations. NEPAD is widely seen as the mechanism through which support to Africa's development efforts can be best delivered. Thus, the NEPAD process has come to be accepted not only by African countries and RECs but also by Africa's development partners as the framework mechanism for their development efforts.