NEPAD – the New Partnership for African Development – aims to attract more than sixty billion dollars in investment for the continent. It proposes to do so by promoting democracy, trade, education and health. A Washington-based group will play a major role in helping attract investment, not only from the United States, but also from Canada, Europe and Asia.
The Corporate Council on Africa is composed of about 170 corporations that account for more than eighty percent of private U-S investment in Africa. The Council has been named as the U-S representative to the steering committee for NEPAD.
Stephen Hayes is president of the organization. He says, "I think that if NEPAD is to succeed it’s really going to have to develop its rapport with private with private business. And also it’s going to have to develop, in fact, entrepreneurship and private business throughout Africa. I think the steering committee, that is, the consortium of international business organizations working with Africa, are critical to Africa being able to establish those relationships."
Mr. Hayes calls NEPAD “the best hope that Africa will evolve into more democratic models involving freer economies.” But he warns, it’s “no panacea” and says the initiative faces many obstacles.
He says, "I think it’s going to be difficult for a number of reasons: the inequality of the stages of development by different countries in Africa, the different political philosophies within Africa, and then the skepticism between the West and Africa at times. I think there’s still quite a bit of Afro-pessimism. So I think this is going to be very, very difficult. But I do see it as a very positive step forward."
NEPAD is considered the brainchild of presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria. NEPAD documents say “the poverty and backwardness of Africa stand in stark contrast to the prosperity of the developed world.” They say the “marginalization” of Africa “constitutes a serious threat to global stability.”
The Corporate Council on Africa president says investing in Africa will benefit the United States. However, Stephen Hayes says investors may be hesitant due to the current political and economic climate.
Mr. Hayes says, "Certainly the war on terrorism is affecting the amount of money that’s available to invest in Africa at the governmental level. So, I think that’s one issue. I think the global economy is clearly slowing down. And our country certainly is and we need to develop other markets. I think Africa represents a very important potential market if we can persuade our – particularly small business sector and middle-size businesses, which represent about eighty-five percent of the economy of the United States, to look at Africa as a place for investment. And I think that NEPAD helps provide that. I think that we have to persuade people that it is a safe and good investment. And I think if we can we can help our own economy as well as the African economy."
The next meeting of NEPAD’s steering committee is set for September 12th in Geneva. The Corporate Council on Africa says besides its role on the steering committee, it is supporting the G-8 Africa Action Plan. The world’s richest nations have pledged to increase overseas development assistance to Africa by twelve billion dollars by the year 2006.