AFRICA is in dire need of a benevolent dictator. Democracy as we know it cannot take us anywhere. When hunger strikes, we cannot feed our people on democracy alone. Good governance means that there are laws that every citizen, including the head of state must obey.
When you have uncontrolled democracy such as ours in Kenya, where every law is either disobeyed or ignored, anarchy creeps in. That is why I like what Col. Muammar Gaddafi did in Sirte last July at the African Union (AU) summit.
Reliable sources have it on authority that the Sirte Summit in Libya did not go in favour of the managers of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). Their circulated new organogram did not get the approval they expected. Instead, Gaddafi, the current AU chairman, had a few hard decisions to make.
He ruled that with immediate effect, the New Partnership for Africaâ€™s Development (NEPAD) and APRM would be under the control of the AU in Addis Ababa.
What is more, the two initiatives would no longer be considered separate. All the recruitment for existing vacancies would be advertised from Addis Ababa rather than Midrand, Johannesburg as has been the case before. If anything, all their salaries would be harmonised with those of the AU and that it was just a matter of time before the South African offices are relocated to Addis Ababa.
Perhaps what irked Gaddafi more was the habit of endless begging for donor funds by NEPAD and APRM, whose results were difficult to quantify. If anything, the annual budgets of the two institutions were more packed with endless talk shops all over the continent and a packed calendar of trips abroad that consumed millions of dollars annually in per diems and air tickets.
According to Gaddafi, the two institutions had embarrassed the continent.
As we continue to digest the relevance of the NEPAD and the APRM vis-a-vis the regional economic blocks, it is becoming abundantly clear that the NEPAD country offices never found a formula to work with and get integrated into the regional blocks as was earlier envisaged by their founding fathers.
Instead there has been some sort of silent rivalry between the two institutions such that a regional block like the East African Community (EAC) has deliberately distanced itself from the NEPAD agenda. This was after it realised that the local NEPAD office in Kenya was trying to lay claim to infrastructure programmes the EAC had negotiated with international financial institutions.
In 2006, there was some element of steam in creating an East African NEPAD secretariat in Nairobi to coordinate the Eastern African activities, especially in the area of infrastructure financing. The focus then was on roads, railways, waterways and ports to cover the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. It was appropriately christened ROOLA project; whatever that means.
At that time, institutions like the International Finance Centre, Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) and African Development Bank were keen to lend money for projects that benefited multiple countries in the region, particularly in road and rail construction. To this end, DBSA financed a pre-feasibility study through the Kenya NEPAD Secretariat. The findings have been lying on the shelves since then.
And to tell you the truth, when the two main players in Kenya died a few years ago, the project died with them because there was no capacity or credible champion at the secretariat to push the agenda forward.
Are NEPAD and APRM still useful to the continent? Yes, they still are, but only if their roles can be better redefined and placed under the direct supervision of the regional economic blocks that in turn can report progress to the AU.
Creating national chapters is a waste of time and national bureaucrats easily derail their programmes if they feel that a NEPAD or an APRM office tries to compete with them for attention at the national level.
The only way the NEPAD can be useful to this continent is to turn it into a think tank for the continent and staffed with top lawyers, engineers, agriculturalists, doctors, researchers, food scientists, sociologists and political scientists as its reservoir of strategists.
Ideally, NEPAD should be turned into an institute of social and scientific studies, where research and feasibility studies are the mainstay of its core staff. That way, it will serve the continent well. Leaving it to be run by run-of-the mill career civil servants is an abuse of the resources of this continent.
On the other hand, the APRM should strictly deal with harmonisation of governance issues in the continent and should be an autonomous governance watchdog at the AU.
The AU should be bold enough to ensure that membership to the AU is dependent upon acceding to the APRM and signing its protocols that allow it to move into any country where governance is wanting to help streamline it. It should in effect be turned into a homegrown African governance and human rights watchdog to help states such as Zimbabwe, the DRC, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia and Kenya that are still democratically challenged.
If AU can streamline the operations of the APRM and NEPAD, while at the same time give more authority and responsibility to the regional economic blocks, we may move faster towards political and monetary integration.
Gaddafi could be just what AU, NEPAD have been missing