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The role of the APRM in strengthening governance in Africa

Professor Michelo Hansungule1

University of Pretoria

SARPN acknowledges the website of the Office of the Special Advisor on Africa as the source of this report:
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There is no doubt that the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is the most ambitious piece of innovation to have come out of Africa since decolonisation. It is a far sighted mutually agreed instrument for self-monitoring by the participating states.2 APRM officials have rightly described it as ‘Africa’s Innovative Thinking on Governance.’3 Obviously, it has a lot of institutional, legal and mechanical problems like any other concept but the idea behind it has no precedent in post-colonial governance in Africa. In the practice of the African state ever since decolonization, the APRM is sui generis.4

One of Africa’s greatest problems since independence is simply governa nce.5 On the eve of his country’s peer review, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya said ‘the African Peer Review Mechanism is our own process as Africans to enable us to govern our nations better, turn Africa into a working continent, and prepare the way for our children and grandchildren to live in an Africa that is politically and economically stable’.6 In terms of its official dimension,7 the APRM aims to address governance deficits in African countries.

Governance deficit is ‘independent’ Africa’s perennial headache and therefore it is good that there finally is this recognition that Africa owes Africa a large debt to put things right as far as governance is concerned. As the tool to bring about good governance, the APRM has the primary task to push states to pursue policies and practices that conform to the agreed political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards contained in the Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance8. As stated in its founding instruments, its primary objective is:

Box 1

To foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through sharing of experiences and reinoforcement of successful and best practice, including identifying deficiences and assessing the needs for capacity bulding (APRM Base Document 2001, paragraph 3)

It being sui generais, however, the Mechanism is expected to operate without the benefit of prior precedent, at least as far as recent history is concerned. But because it is connected with science, it will not exactly work like fortune-telling. The Base Document, other relevant instruments as well as experience sharing will be the background against which to chart the way forward. In current political terms, the APRM is the basic instrument invented by Africa’s leaders to implement the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It is the technical arm of NEPAD set to give direction and predisposition to the African Union (AU) and therefore to the often quoted African Renaissance.

Thus far five countries have successfully completed the five stages constituting the base or maiden review: Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa and Algeria, in that order. For Ghana, it is a ‘dance’ it has gone through before being the first Sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from colonialism. The only other country besides Ethiopia to have faced genocide in independent Africa, Rwanda deserves praise for picking up the ashes and going through the process. South Africa, one of the two authors of the NEPAD and later Algeria, have joined Ghana and Rwanda to be among the first participating countries to go through the process. Kenya, one of the first of the East African countries to undergo democratiation has again led the way and joined the first few countries to undergo the process. Therefore, of the twenty-six participating states that have acceded to the Mechanism, twenty-one are still to take the plunge: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

  1. This paper reflects the views of the author.
  2. NEPAD/HSGIC/C03-2003/APRM/Memorandum of Understanding/Annex11
  3. A presentation prepared by the APRM for the Eighth Gathering of the African Partnership Forum, Berlin, Germany, 22 to 23 May, 2007.
  4. However, there are other even more competitive rankings of African governance performance including the one recently introduced by Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim. The Panel of Eminent Persons for the Mo Ibrahim ranking is chaired by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Though the ranking purports to focus also on the country, a huge monetary prize of US$ 5 million is given to the individual former Head of State whom the Panel believes represents the values of an open democratic society including change, peace, stability and development. Former President of Mozambique Joachim Chisano was announced winner of the first ranking. Africa Monitor, Africa Voices for Africa’s Development, Mo Ibrahim Foundation launches world’s most competitive ranking of African governance, 25 September, 2007,
  5. I use the difficult word ‘governance’ broadly to include both its internal and external ramifications the later to refer to the developments on the external scene which impact negatively on Africa. For example, the World Bank and IMF, in which important policy makers in these institutions are never elected by the beneficiaries of their policies - mostly people in African and third world countries - and therefore not accountable to them have had significant negative impact on the latter countries. Governance, not necessarily democracy in the narrow sense of regular and fair elections in the internal sense but broadly speaking has been Africa’s nightmare.
  6. Press Statement for H.E. President Mwai Kibaki on the Ocassion of the APR Heads of State Forum, July 2006,
  8. AHG/235/XXXV111, Annex 1

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