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Book Chapter

Publication Date



Africa, New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD)


Published in "Africa: Mapping New Boundaries in International Law," edited by Jeremy Levitt. Oxford, Hart, 2008. Chapter 9, p. 257-295.


The Black man’s burden again has become the world’s. Not since the early part of the 1960s has the well-being of the Dark Continent attracted the level of attention that it is now generating. Spurred by a variety of motives, including humanitarianism and concerns over the potential of so-called failed states as safe harbours for transnational terrorism, the welfare of the continent has become the special concern of G8 summit meetings. The United Nations Security Council now routinely adopts mandatory resolutions under Chapter VII that expressly and in fine detail regulate military, diplomatic, legal and even commercial interactions with the continent. Increasingly, the continent’s problems are seen and portrayed as meriting distinctive attention and proposals for solution at otherwise global gatherings such as those involving trade, health, and ‘financing for development.’ Policy entrepreneurs, acting in quasi-official and private capacities, have thrown themselves into the struggle. Applying his trademark crusader’s zeal to the issue, British Prime Minister Tony Blair created a ‘commission’ of eminences and experts to provide solutions for Africa’s problems. Rock-and-roll starts speak with authority and discernment on the poverty-prone precariousness of African lives, and software executives now contribute as much to resolving the continent’s health problems as do many of its governments. The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) has featured prominently in this renewed environment of interest in the welfare of African societies. For African academics and political leaders, it has become the exemplar of a re-invigorated philosophy of responsibility and accountability. For non-African politicians and entertainers, it has become a manifestation of the welcome emergence of a new and responsible African leadership with whom the ‘international community’ can do business. Whether at Davos, Gleneagles or Monterey, reference to NEPAD has been deployed by African leaders and foreign sympathizers alike to show the earnestness of the new commitment and to plead that this new wind of change is no forestalled prematurely. Against this backdrop, this chapter examines the extent to which NEPAD represents a dramatic shift in the fortunes of the continent. The chapter focuses on discussing the ways in which the ethos of development embodied by NEPAD fits within and contributes to the international legal order. In this regard, I explore the animating visions that underlie NEPAD and inquire into how responsive NEPAD, as an institution, is to those visions. In keeping with the overall theme of the collection of chapters in this volume, I highlight the intertwining relationship of NEPAD and the dominant neo-liberal order. In part II, I present a brief background to NEPAD and describe its core ideas. Part III sets NEPAD against the backdrop of prior development ideologies in Africa. Part IV examines the reciprocal interactions of NEPAD and the global neo-liberal order within which it is firmly located. I then present some concluding thoughts on the search for an appropriate path to ‘development’ in Africa.


International Law