By Greg Nott
When NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) was adopted some 20 years ago by the African Union in 2002, it was a time of extraordinary African leadership and the birthing of the vision of an African renaissance.
Then-South African President Thabo Mbeki and the former president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, were founding fathers of the NEPAD vision, backed by AU country members South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, and Senegal.
President Mbeki encouraged South Africans to embrace an African identity and sought to promote the continent’s political, economic, and social renewal. He also sought to reintegrate Africa into the global economy.
President Mbeki requested that corporate South Africa establish a programme parallel to NEPAD, and the NEPAD Business Foundation (NBF) was born with Dr Reuel Khoza appointed as the Founding Chairman.
Numerous patrons and prominent businesspeople across the continent lent their support, wisdom, and influence to establishing the NBF. Furthermore, the NBF got backing from multinationals and state-owned entities such as Anglo-American, Eskom, MTN, Old Mutual and Transnet. It was a time of African optimism and pride.
Our 20-year anniversary coincides with some progressive public and private sector partnerships that we have successfully formed to contribute to the socio-economic development of the region.
The role of the NBF as an implementing partner
NEPAD got formed as an economic development programme with a vision for African businesses to arise and build the continent’s economies through regional infrastructure projects that would eradicate poverty and place African countries – individually and collectively – on a path of sustainable growth and development.
In the past 20 years, NEPAD has left a legacy of partnerships and collaboration on projects. NEPAD has linked business associations across the continent, built a network of African connections, and overseen billions of dollars of infrastructure development projects that have enhanced and uplifted the quality of life for many African citizens.
Within two decades, the NBF has embarked on a programme that addressed food security, helping to develop infrastructure, and facilitating the establishment and spread of good governance in corporate, political and economic realms.
NEPAD’s most remarkable accomplishment has been fostering an African public-private-participation process where governments, the private sector, DFIs, civil society and NGOs have worked together on regional projects unlocking economic growth and development.
Through the Africa Infrastructure Desk’s (Afri-ID) Transport and Energy programmes, and as the Secretariat of the SADC Business Council (SADC BC) and Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN), we provide linkages between the public and private sector, accelerating development programmes, projects, and initiatives from inception to implementation for the prosperity of Africa.
Through the Afri-ID Transport and Energy programmes, the NBF facilitates the optimisation, rehabilitation, and upgrade of the North-South Rail Corridor (NSC) railway network, as well as the monetisation of the natural gas resources within the SADC region through the SADC Regional Gas Programme (RGMP).
The recently launched SADC regional tourism business platform addresses tourism barriers. Also launched this year is the SADC – Africa Trade and Investment Marketplace with Afreximbank which aims to promote regional trade, unlock investment opportunities, deepen economic cooperation, and drive sustainable business growth between the SADC region and the rest of Africa.
The role of the African private sector remains critical for the future
‘NEPAD has transformed into a project-based organisation. Operations are run by a core team of specialists and overseen by high-profile board members, including Seara Mkhabela, Koko Khumalo, Sean Murphy, Dr Yvonne Mhinga, Cas Coovadia, Peter Varndell, Yolisa Kani, Trevor Brown, vice chairperson Sabine Dallomo and chairperson Geoff Rothschild. I am humbled to work alongside such great people’.
Harnessing opportunities afforded by the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and accelerating Africa’s digital transformation holds tremendous economic promise. The recently concluded COP27 was dubbed the “African COP” with the continent centre stage in the global effort to fight the causes and effects of climate change. It is in these contexts the role of the NBF has become crucial and highlights the need to realise an integrated and prosperous Africa, as outlined in the SADC Vision 2050, African Union’s Agenda 2063 and AfCFTA.
Building on our legacy of collaboration and partnerships
Our vision is to be a key enabler of a prosperous Africa based on inclusive and sustainable social and economic development. Therefore, I encourage regional industry players, business leaders, governments and policymakers to join us on our next 20-year journey. Through a collective and coordinated approach we are well positioned to achieve socio-economic development in Africa.
Here’s to the next 20 years delivering double the impact and twice the reach.
Nott is a Board Member and Chairperson of the NEPAD Operations Committee for the past 8 years