From Fri Mar 29 07:28:46 2002
Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 19:55:16 -0600 (CST)
From: Progressive Response <>
Subject: NEPAD, India, Afghanistan
Article: 135596
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Thabo Mbeki's new partnership for Africa's development: breaking or shining the chains of global Apartheid?

By Patrick Bond, The Progressive Response, Vol. 6 no. 9, 28 March 2002

(Editor's Note: Launched in October 2001, the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD online at aims to establish a new framework of interaction with the rest of the world, including the industrialized countries and multilateral organizations as a means of putting Africa on a high-growth path. As a project of the African Union, it tries to articulate a regional development strategy. The NEPAD outlines a reciprocal set of commitments between Africa states, donor governments, and the private sector as a framework for managing Africa's integration into the world economy.

Analyst Patrick Bond critically evaluates the NEPAD's promise to promote growth and democracy in Africa, examining both the strategies for integration as well as its technocratic approach to democratic governance. He then outlines an alternative agenda to the NEPAD that is grounded in the struggles of African networks of social justice movements. This is the latest contribution to our ongoing efforts to promote South-North Dialog. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the FPIF staff or the boards of either sponsoring organization. Comments are welcome. Please send to John Gershman <>.)

This essay considers Thabo Mbeki's analysis of globalization, his strategy and demands for global-scale and continental socioeconomic progress, and his preferred alliances. These topics arise because of his stated intention, in the October 2001 New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), to establish a new framework of interaction with the rest of the world, including the industrialized countries and multilateral organizations—one that is sufficiently radical to lift African GDP growth to 7% per annum.2 That new framework has been emerging since mid-2000, when Mbeki began high-profile international discussions with G-8 leaders about African political economics. NEPAD will be highlighted and endorsed at the G-8 meeting in Alberta, Canada, in June 2002, at the July launch of the African Union in Pretoria, and at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development—with a proposed global New Deal modeled on NEPAD—in late August. At such events, protesters who support the cause of global environmental, social, and economic justice will be told, in effect, Don't worry, you can go home, because Thabo Mbeki is taking care of globalization's shortcomings.

In these settings, and as read through excerpts from speeches (considered below) and the NEPAD document, Mbeki's approach is consistent with what has been termed compradorism. Mbeki and his main allies have already succumbed to the class (not necessarily personalistic) limitations of post-Independence African nationalism, namely acting in close collaboration with hostile transnational corporate and multilateral forces whose interests stand directly opposed to Mbeki's South African and African constituencies.

The project, therefore, is to reform interstate relations and the embryonic world-state system. As NEPAD explains,

While globalization has increased the cost of Africa's ability to compete, we hold that the advantages of an effectively managed integration present the best prospects for future economic prosperity and poverty reduction... The case for the role of national authorities and private institutions in guiding the globalization agenda along a sustainable path and, therefore, one in which its benefits are more equally spread, remains strong... Africa, impoverished by slavery, corruption and economic mismanagement is taking off in a difficult situation. However, if her enormous natural and human resources are properly harnessed and utilized, it could lead to equitable and sustainable growth of the continent as well as enhance its rapid integration into the world economy.

But to the contrary, the evidence thus far is that equitable and sustainable growth and Africa's rapid integration into the world economy are mutually exclusive. Although Africa's share of world trade declined during the 1980s-90s, the volume of exports increased, while the value of sub-Saharan exports was cut in half relative to the value of imports from the North.5 Such marginalization occurred not because of lack of integration but because of too much of the wrong sort. For while integrating more rapidly into the world economy via export-led growth, as demanded by Washington, Africa's ability to grow—either equitably and sustainably, or even inequitably—actually declined in comparison to the period prior to structural adjustment.

Thus, I argue below, the reform strategy will fail, although not because of Pretoria's lack of positionality and international credibility to carry out NEPAD and win endorsements from global elites. After all, since 1994, extremely talented politicians and officials from Pretoria have presided over the board of governors of the IMF and World Bank, the Non-Aligned Movement, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the Commonwealth, the Organization of African Unity, the Southern African Development Community, the World Commission on Dams, and a host of other important international and continental bodies.

Instead, as argued in five subsequent sections, the failure is already emanating from the very project of global reformism itself, namely, Mbeki's underlying philosophy and incorrect analysis, ineffectual practical strategies, uncreative and inappropriate demands, and counterproductive alliances. Rather than leading the world, Mbeki and his Pretoria colleagues will more likely tread a well-known, dusty path: a post-colonial, neoliberal cul-de-sac of predictable direction and duration. Moreover, notwithstanding mixed rhetorical signals, Mbeki and NEPAD for all effective purposes exclude (indeed, most often reject) alliances with international social, labor, and environmental movements who, in their struggles for socio-environmental and economic justice, are the main agents of progressive global change.