NEPAD: Towards Africa’s Development or Another False Start?
By Ian Taylor
Lynne Rienner, 2006, 212 pp.
The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) was launched in 2001 by a small number of African heads of state, under the leadership of South African President Thabo Mbeki. In effect, these leaders offered the rich countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development a deal: African countries would commit themselves to political reform and economic development if the West would triple aid flows to the region. The promise of democratization and governance reforms grabbed media attention, not least because NEPAD promised to put in place mechanisms by which African governments would monitor one another's progress, which appeared to herald a new era of democratic rule in the region. Unfortunately, African governments soon backed away from these commitments, and Mbeki's subsequent unwillingness to criticize President Robert Mugabe's dismal rule in Zimbabwe was devastating for NEPAD's credibility. Taylor has written a thoroughly engaging account of NEPAD's brief history. He shows how NEPAD was foremost an attempt to repackage Africa's image in the West -- and how its limited reformist intentions were soon overwhelmed by African political realities. He also provides much useful information on the region's continuing governance failures. The book is especially relevant given current rhetoric about Africa, which exaggerates both the importance of recent governance improvements and the likely impact of sharp increases in development aid.