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NEPAD’s APRM: A Progress Report, Practical Limitations and Challenges

Ayesha Kajee1

South African Institute of International Affairs
SA Yearbook of International Affairs, 2003/04

Posted with permission of the author. For purposes of citation, the following should be used: Kajee, Ayesha. 2004. Nepad’s APRM: A Progress Report, Practical Limitations and Challenges. In SA Yearbook of International Affairs, 2003/04. SAIIA: Johannesburg.
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Africa’s political and business leaders face a litmus test of their willingness and commitment to implement fair and socially equitable governance and business practices. Hailed by the North and many in Africa as a panacea for the continent’s governance woes, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), a groundbreaking initiative of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), is finally getting underway.

The APRM is unique in its scope and breadth. While the concept of peer review has precedents in the academic world, its use by states has been limited to financial audits such as those instituted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the sector-specific peer reviews of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The APRM process is designed as a mechanism whereby countries voluntarily ‘open their books’ to be examined within a formal structure according to Nepad guidelines. Teams of African experts in various spheres will assess and critique the countries’ governance performance based on a number of key indicators viz. political governance, economic governance, corporate governance and socio-economic development.

Currently, 23 countries2 have signed the APRM Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), thereby acceding to being reviewed by their peers. The peer review process aims to scrutinise all levels of government, parliament and the judiciary as well as the private sector. In the past, large private corporations have exploited the greed of political leaders to advance their business interests.

Africa’s stagnation, and indeed retrogression, in the socio-economic development sphere can be attributed largely to the levels of chronic poor governance experienced by many African states. Historically, African states have regarded each other’s sovereignty as sacrosanct, a position that has allowed corrupt regimes to flourish at the expense of their citizens’ well-being. The introduction of the APRM, despite its many limitations, presents a refreshing counterpoint to this. If followed through with sincerity, peer review could help translate Nepad rhetoric into concrete and measurable results at national level.

  1. AYESHA KAJEE is the seminar manager of the Nepad and Governance project at SAIIA, based at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She has organised a number of workshops on the peer review mechanism and civil society in countries which have acceded to peer review.
  2. These countries include: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

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