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NEPAD and the Challenge of Africa’s Development: Towards the political economy of a discourse

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The critical necessity of development for Africa in the 21st century is an issue around which there is considerable consensus. There is, however, little agreement on the nature of the crisis, the required development framework, and the ‘desired state’. In the context of the debate, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has been promoted by its authors and sponsors as Africa’s development blueprint for meeting its development challenges. Much of the criticism of NEPAD has focused, procedurally, on the lack of consultation in its drafting, and, paradigmatically, on its neoliberal content, the same set of policy instruments that have damaged Africa over the last 20 years. The latter underscores the sense of betrayal that comes through civil society resistance to NEPAD. The question though is this: Why would a group of African leaders, who seem genuine in their concerns, take responsibility for such policy framework? The paper seeks an explanation in the complex interaction between a set of developments since 1980: the neo-liberal hegemony at the level of state policymaking, internal policy atrophy, coercive power of compliance, but equally the new constituencies (class forces) that have been thrown up in the last two decades – within the state, economy, and importantly the civil society in sub-Saharan Africa. Much of the latter is premised on the ‘death of the emancipatory project’ and the dominant politics of the petty bourgeois class in Africa. It is in this sense that we understanding NEPAD as a class project, hence, its import.


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