More than two years have elapsed since the birth of the new-look African Union (AU), during which time several of the major organs mandated by the AU have come into existence, and various others are due to be inaugurated in the near future. The AU also
embraced as its developmental framework, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), launched in October 2001.
While the ideal of a politically and economically integrated continent isn’t new, the energy created by the genesis of the AU and its organs has rekindled optimism for an African renaissance. Significantly, the voluntary African Peer Review Mechanism
(APRM) has been introduced as a vehicle for improving governance standards and holding corrupt governments to account. The first four countries are to undergo review during 2004.
The past decade has also seen regional integration structures progress from theoretical talk-shops to practical implementation in many spheres. Institutions that were originally created primarily for economic reasons have expanded their scope to include political and security considerations (and, as in the case of SADC, vice versa).
This paper briefly explores the relationship between regional structures such as SADC and the continental union, looking at how established regional organs and substructures can dovetail (or not), with the corresponding continental ones, many of which are newly formed. It seeks to determine the potential for synergy and complementarity between these organs and to examine whether structures are being duplicated. Since the APRM is perhaps the single most innovative initiative of the AU, the paper
attempts an analysis of the APRM as a tool that could have significant impacts on regional integration and regional development and explores the potential for regional structures such as SADC to become actively involved in the peer review process.
Ultimately, the paper attempts to answer the question of whether the AU’s (and especially NEPAD’s) laudable but lofty aims can, in part, be operationalised via regional bodies.