Prof. Richard Mkandawire, Head of Directorate-Partnerships, Resource Mobilisation and Communications, NEPAD Agency.
Interviewed by Yvette Mbassi-Bikele, Cameroon Tribune
What is the significance of this meeting in Maseru?
The Maseru meeting is to deepen engagements with the key stakeholders; but most importantly, the media across Africa to begin to define or really create a framework that will enhance the visibility of our New Partnership for Africa’s Development, (NEPAD) activities and programmes. One of the challenges we see is, there are a lot of media within Africa that complain, they do not know much in terms of what NEPAD is doing. They are concerned about the specific impact of NEPAD programmes. If I am right, we have not reached out to them effectively as we should. Working together with our colleagues in the UN systems, we are hoping that we can begin to define a methodology for engagements with the media across Africa.
NEPAD will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in July. What kind of evaluation do you make of these 10 years?
NEPAD has come a long way. It was endorsed by the Heads of State and Governments in Lusaka in 2001. As we can recall, members of NEPAD, the Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) have actually supported the range of all interventions in the NEPAD. One involving the engagement with the G8 as well as participating in some of the G20 meetings to make sure African priorities are put on the table. Since 2001, we are beginning to see that the international community is beginning to listen to African voices, beginning to pay attention to African leadership voices at the global fora. Indeed, quite a number of positions at the global level are beginning to change in support of Africa, in a view, that may not be something tangible, but it is important to appreciate that the international community is beginning to listen. If you look at the whole UN system, there are a number of resolutions and indeed that is why we are here with the support of a number of UN agencies that are able to align to NEPAD programmes.
What are some of the areas?
In a number of sectors, we have worked very closely with some of the key UN institutions like the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, (UNECA). They have been very supportive. They assisted us in the development of our own communication strategy. They are supporting us on a range of information on the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Strategy. We have worked with the Food and Agricultural Organisation which helped to conceptualise the framework but also with the regional economic communities and eventually, at the country level. In the area of natural resource management, UN agency has been instrumental in working with us. Many other UN agencies have been very instrumental, but the challenge now is to move towards implementation of our programmes on the ground. This is the outcry from the international community as well as from our own governments. There has been a major movement in the agricultural sector, especially in the implementation on the ground. Twenty six countries have now signed the CAADP compact and among these 26 countries, five have already started to receive finances. But beyond that, national governments are beginning to put more money into the agricultural sector. This is very significant and shows that national governments are beginning to get responsive. Obviously, we need to reach out to countries more. This is where we believe that our engagement with the media is important and we also need to engage our law makers like members of parliament. This is to make sure that they are aware of what NEPAD is doing and the benefits they can get out of it. Fundamentally, I must mention that NEPAD does not belong to the NEPAD Agency or the African Union. NEPAD is our way of doing things differently and it belongs to every African. It is a new vision for the transformation of African economies. Our challenge, therefore, is to take NEPAD to every African across the continent; civil society organisation, the media, universities. Everybody must embrace NEPAD as a new way of pursuing the development agenda in Africa.
In some regions, people are not really getting involved. What do you think should be done?
We need to make sure that Central Africa is actually reached. We are working very closely with our colleagues of ECCAS. And indeed within the context of some of our programmes, we will be facilitating, again with the support of the UN systems, to support them with capacity strengthening because one of the challenges NEPAD faces is the lack of capacity in a number of areas. We are working with our colleagues of ECCAS to see how best they can be given additional support so that they can reach as many countries as possible. We feel that countries which have well defined frameworks around NEPAD programmes need to reach out also to the UN systems so that together we can reach out to the majority of countries in Central Africa. Certainly, this is one of the challenges. Central Africa is one of the priorities in the next 10 years.
Most of your resources are coming from UN agencies. Do you have a strategy for sustainability beyond these international institutions?
I think everybody agrees that Africa would not be developed through external aid. Africa needs to begin to pull out its successes and begin to look for resources within Africa. There is no country that has developed through dependency on external aid alone.