By Diadie Ba
Dakar - Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade has accused an African leadership group set up six years ago to manage development of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and achieving nothing for the world's poorest continent.
Wade said the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), meant to commit African leaders to promote democracy and good governance in return for increased Western investment, trade and debt relief, had proved no more than a talking shop.
"I've decided no longer to waste my time going to meetings where nothing gets done. It's very agreeable to meet among ourselves but it doesn't drive things forward," Wade said in an interview late on Tuesday on West African TV channel Africable.
"Expenses adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on trips, on hotels. But not a single classroom has been built, not a single health centre completed. Nepad has not done what it was set up for," he said.
World powers meeting at a Group of Eight (G8) summit in Germany last week pledged $60-billion (about R433-million)to fight Aids and other diseases ravaging Africa but critics question how effectively development money is being managed by African governments.
Wade was one of several Nepad leaders to attend the summit.
"The money is there, because an engagement by a large country is almost as good as cash in hand... but the problem is the implementation by Nepad," Wade said.
Nepad was launched with great fanfare six years ago and Senegal was one of its founding members along with South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Algeria.
Its key objectives are to eradicate poverty, put African countries on a path of sustainable development and prevent Africa being marginalised in the process of globalisation.
"We cannot expect every head of state to have the same enthusiasm, they are different... there are some who are more enthusiastic than others," said Thaninga Shope-Linney, Nepad's general manager of communications and marketing.
"The issue of debt cancellation was a big plus for African countries and it was achieved through Nepad, there is a lot that is happening... Nepad is not even six years old, I think it's a bit unfair for people to expect to see this humongous change."
A key part of the plan is the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), under which governments open themselves up to scrutiny by a panel of African leaders. But so far less than half of the 53 members of the African Union have signed up for the process.
Despite his criticism of Nepad's profligacy, Wade is himself one of Africa's most globetrotting leaders, often criticised in Senegal for busying himself too much with international diplomacy and too little with the country's own problems.
Wade was in South Africa on Wednesday and has travelled to Geneva, Paris and London since the start of this month alone.
Additional reporting by Phumza Macanda in Johannesburg.