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The Africa Commission: a critical assessment

Discussion paper commissioned by the Nelson Mandela Foundation

Prepared by: Chris Landsberg (Centre for Policy Studies) and David Kalete (CIVICUS)


June 2005

SARPN acknowledges permission from the Nelson Mandela Foundation, who commissioned this report, for its posting on the SARPN website.
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This paper attempts to engage two initiatives; first the Commission for Africa (CfA) which was launched by British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in March 2004 and second the 400-page CfA report, titled "Our Common Interests" which was officially released on the 11th of March 2005. The purpose of the CfA was to "examine Africa's past, present and future" and provide an "assessment of the situation in Africa and policies towards Africa". The Commission set out to generate increased support for the G8-Africa Action Plan and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). The central question asked by the Commission was this: What can the rest of the international community do to support successful African development?

The report was preceded by extensive consultations and analysis of hundreds of written submissions to the commissioners in 2004. The report is comprehensive, and covers a vast array of issues. In some instances it makes some very bold recommendations while in others it exudes major weaknesses and omissions.

This discussion paper considers the major issues and recommendations of the report. It starts by situating the report in its necessary continental and international context, after which it unpacks the key issues that emerge from the report. The paper than discusses the key recommendations in the report, and concludes with a critique of the Commission for Africa findings.

The main purpose of the paper is to stimulate discussion on the CfA report. The intention is to raise some of the complex and interrelated issues that are brought to the fore by the report and some of the areas which were not exhaustively addressed by the commission.

The report has been viewed in some quarters as "a Marshall Plan for Africa". It talks about spurring "Africa's turning point", presenting a "forceful response" to Africa's vast challenges, based on "a partnership between Africa and the developed world that takes full account of Africa's diversity and particular circumstances". The report is presented as "a coherent package for Africa". The paper will now consider whether the CfA report does present "a coherent" framework for Africa's development.

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