PSC Interview: 'Expect a more robust NEPAD Agency'

Uncertainty about the future of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and its committee of heads of state surfaced at the 30th African Union (AU) summit in January 2018. The PSC Report spoke to Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD Agency, about the future of the organisation. 

Is there any truth to the rumour that NEPAD will be disbanded?

There is absolutely no truth to that rumour.

The rumour that NEPAD will be disbanded may have emanated from a proposal in 2017, which was subsequently withdrawn, not for NEPAD to be disbanded but for the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) to be disbanded. This proposal was rejected.

On the contrary, AU member states are reaffirming their commitment to the NEPAD Agency as the union’s own instrument established to champion catalytic support to member states and regional bodies in advancing the implementation of the continent’s development vision – as articulated in the seven aspirations and 20 goals of Agenda 2063.

Therefore, in the coming years, you should expect to see a stronger and more robust NEPAD Agency.

Is a new AU Development Agency going to be created, based in South Africa?

I trust you are familiar with the essence and rationale of the AU reforms led by President Paul Kagame. A core aspect of these reforms is to streamline and improve effectiveness and efficiency in delivery in the implementation of AU decisions, policies and programmes across all AU organs and institutions. In this sense, as the NEPAD Agency is the technical implementation agency of the AU, one specific recommendation in the Kagame report is to transform it into the AU Development Agency.

The AU Assembly will decide on the headquarters of any potential successor agency, if it is to move at all
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However, it is important to note that a decision of the AU on the AU Development Agency has not yet been formally adopted, but it is a welcome plan that would strengthen the delivery capacity of the AU on agreed key priorities. The NEPAD Agency is currently headquartered in South Africa, and the AU Assembly will decide on the headquarters of any potential successor agency, if it is to move at all. 

How many countries have signed up to NEPAD since its creation?

It is critically important to be clear on this point. The AU decision on the establishment of the NEPAD Secretariat in 2001 and the 2010 decision that transformed the secretariat into an agency are decisions that directly and practically implicate all the member states – now the 55 member states. So, there is no such thing as ‘member states signing up to or ratifying’ NEPAD.

This is the reason why the NEPAD Agency has been collaborating and supporting all the member states and regional economic communities (RECs). At this very moment, the NEPAD Agency has a direct and active programme support footprint in 52 of the 55 member states. By virtue of its purpose and mandate, the NEPAD Agency is obliged to work with and support all the member states and is driven by their own needs and priorities. Whenever and wherever a country’s readiness and needs are expressed on any aspects of the implementation of Agenda 2063, as domesticated in their national development plans, the NEPAD Agency responds with available capacities and resources.

How does this affect the governance structure of NEPAD?

As implied in earlier points, the NEPAD Agency has been fully established by member states. Ultimately, its obligations and accountability are to the member states, through and in liaison with the AU Commission (AUC). On a practical level, this is realised through the NEPAD Steering Committee and the HSGOC. These committees involve 20 member states, including the five initiator countries of NEPAD – Algeria, Senegal, Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa – and as this is on a two-year rotational basis, every member state gets the opportunity to serve on the committee.

Like all other heads of state committees, within the AU Constitutive Act, the HSGOC remains an integral part of the AU system.

When will a new chairperson of the heads of state governing body be appointed to replace President Macky Sall?

The envisaged election of the next chairperson of the HSGOC will take place in January 2019, during the AU summit in Addis Ababa.

What exactly is NEPAD‘s role, compared to those of the Social Affairs and Economic Affairs Commissions of the AU, national governments and institutions such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)?

The NEPAD Agency continues to accompany member states and RECs on specific programme priorities in various ways
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I would like to first underline the fact that the NEPAD Agency was established for a purpose that is unique in its form and value. In this way, the NEPAD Agency’s role and value is complementary and supportive to the AUC and the RECs. Together, they bring utmost comprehensive and integrated value to national action (i.e. value in supporting and enhancing member states’ ability and capacity to plan, execute and evaluate their development plans and policies) within the countries, and they connect across countries for economic integration.

In terms of the specific roles and value, after closing the loop by (a) providing expert input (data and analysis) to the AUC-led processes for advancing continental development priorities, policies and frameworks, the NEPAD Agency (b) picks up the continental development policy decisions, translates these into implementable frameworks and moves this collaboratively with RECs and member states ‘to domesticate’ the continental development policies into regional development plans and national development plans, respectively. With a focus on enhancing and aligning implementation capacity, the NEPAD Agency (c) continues to accompany member states and RECs on specific programme priorities in various ways, including planning and evaluations (impacting on the quality, appropriateness and bankability of investment programmes), as well as brokering technical and financing partnerships (thereby leveraging resources and expertise with an impact on enhanced and expended implementation capacity).

Intervening at all three levels, i.e. national, regional and continental, the NEPAD Agency is able to foster vertical and horizontal coherence – important in building continental and regional economic and social capital and value, which forms part of the essential ingredients of sustainable national success in terms of economic growth and development.

One element uniquely significant in Agenda 2063 is the AU member states’ resolute commitment to delivering results (tangible impact on key development parameters). This is why the AU has gone further to define the specific role of the NEPAD Agency in organising and managing the overall Agenda 2063 First-Ten-Year-Implementation-Plan monitoring and evaluation (M&E) undertaking, as well as related reporting and learning. This work involves bringing in the desired standardisation in tools and templates to support individual member states in determining and enhancing national systems and capacity for monitoring development progress and performance, including linking to relevant national accountability platforms and planning systems.

Working with UNECA, the AfDB and other partners under the overall coordination of the AUC, the NEPAD Agency recently finalised the development of the Agenda 2063 First-Ten-Year-Implementation-Plan M&E Framework. The joint collaboration, especially with UNECA’s involvement, is particularly welcomed in the context of the desired ‘alignment and harmonization’ between Agenda 2063 and the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals, or Agenda 2030]. The First-Ten-Year-Implementation-Plan M&E Framework, which was validated and approved by member states, has been designed to foster and facilitate implementation of Agenda 2063 while fully reflecting some aspects of Agenda 2030. This is important in ensuring member states are not confused or led to run parallel Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 implementation arrangements.

I expect that the agency will attract and expand funding support from the private sector
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Where does NEPAD get its funding?

Core operations, including core staff, are funded by member states through contributions to the AUC. Since 2017, the NEPAD Agency has also received programme funding from the AUC, i.e. from member states’ contributions. I can only see this window increasing along with member states’ commitments and determination to have Africa’s development programmes funded largely from its own resources.

At the moment, a large portion of the agency’s programme funding comes from our development partners. Even as the agency expends programme funding from member states, complementary funding from partners will remain necessary and useful in many ways, including clearing for viable and bankable investment financing.

In this sense, I also expect that the agency will attract and expand funding support from the private sector – especially Africa’s own private sector. In each aspect – member states, development partners or the private sector – the NEPAD Agency remains resolute in strengthening internal systems and mechanisms to ensure value for money, accountability and clear line of sight, linking all development financing resources to tangible results and impacts, ultimately enhancing capacity for national action.

How do you see NEPAD evolving in the next few years?

The reform to the AU Development Agency is in the context of strengthening a focused delivery system for the agency
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As mentioned earlier, the rationale and purpose for which the NEPAD Agency was set up – even as it transforms into the AU Development Agency – remains relevant and even greater now, in the light of the even stronger tenacity, determination and commitment by the AU member states – severally and collectively – to deliver tangible results and change on key economic growth (wealth creation and sustainable expansion in GDP [gross domestic product]) and inclusive development (from jobs and economic opportunities, food and nutritional security through to access to proper education, health and other welfare services for the continent’s populations).

The reform to the AU Development Agency is also in the context of strengthening a focused delivery system for the agency and therefore enabling the continent to realise optimal value from the operations and work of the agency. I also remain highly optimistic on the future of the agency, as moving into the AU Development Agency will also enable the agency to rally the desired expertise and resources in order to be highly responsive to member states’ needs, enhancing Africa’s capacity and ability to compete and leverage value out of global geo-politics.

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