Under the auspices of the African Union, African leaders established the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) in 2003 as an instrument for monitoring governance performance among member states. A self-monitoring instrument, APRM aims to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices leading to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated regional and economic integration. Africa Renewal’s Zipporah Musau sat down with Prof. Eddy Maloka, the CEO of the South Africa–based APRM Secretariat, to understand how they conduct their business. Here are excerpts:
Africa Renewal: What is APRM’s mandate and how does it operate?
Prof. Maloka: We are a specialized agency created by African heads of state and governments to review each other as a way of strengthening governance. We are based in Midrand, South Africa. We send teams to member countries to compile comprehensive reports on governance. We focus on four areas: democracy and political governance, economic governance and management, corporate governance and socioeconomic development. But recently we were asked to also be a tracking instrument of the AU [African Union] on the state of governance in Africa.
How many countries have signed up?
We started in 2003 with just six members. Today we have 37 members, the latest being The Gambia. We have reviewed 20 countries so far, including Chad, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and others. We have reviewed Kenya twice, and we have just completed the second review of Uganda. We have national offices in several member countries. We encourage new members to create a national APRM office to follow up on our work.
While you have achieved some success, some countries are reluctant to join APRM. Why?
The accession to the APRM is voluntary. Countries sign up at different times for different reasons. Namibia recently joined, and several countries, such as the Comoros, have written to join. We work with the pace of countries because being a member of the APRM comes with a responsibility. You
must be prepared to open your house for APRM to look at how you are conducting business and give you suggestions on how to improve. Ideally, all AU members should be in APRM.
Do countries believe that peer review is in their best interest?
We always tell countries that APRM is not about finding faults, but that it is a platform to share best practices. For example, Uganda is one of the best models in the managing and integration of refugees. So our report would capture that, although we also highlight the challenges. After our review, some countries may realize that they need to create new ministries, or they may say, “We don’t have enough women in parliament” or “We are not doing enough to fight corruption.” So they take the necessary measures—institutional and sometimes legislative measures—to ensure that the issues raised in our report are used to strengthen governance in their countries.
Do countries have the technical and financial capacity to implement your recommendations?
Implementation is a sovereign decision. We do our best to work with the countries. We have a working group on best practices in national planning, co-chaired by South Africa and Uganda, to encourage countries to integrate our recommendations into their national and fiscal planning processes so that they can be budgeted for. We plan to also have targeted missions to assist countries to build capacity.
Without an enforcement mechanism, how relevant will the organization be in the future?
You don’t need an enforcement mechanism; you don’t need a “stick” because it’s voluntary. When countries join APRM, they are putting on the plate the kind of responsibilities and obligations they are taking as a country. The current chair of the AU, President Idriss Déby of Chad, has requested us to set up a task force to address the issue you just raised. He wants to deepen the country reviews and for the heads of state and governments to focus on how to make these reviews more effective.
APRM has been praised for its early warning system. Can you highlight a few instances where your early warning to countries may have averted a crisis?
Well, APRM reports highlight some of the issues that require early response. But countries don’t always respond early to those issues. For example, I was in Mali recently and everybody was saying that what happened there [fighting between government and rebels] had been predicted in an APRM report, yet the country didn’t do much to implement recommendations. And there are other countries where the APRM report highlighted what could happen if certain actions were not taken. We become successful if we implement the recommendations; if we don’t, we can only look back and regret.
As part of the AU’s reform package, APRM is also now involved in tracking progress in the implementation of Africa’s Agenda 2063, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. Are you up to the task?
We have started work and will be releasing the first State of Governance [and Accountability in Africa] report in January 2019, and [will] launch it on the margins of the AU summit. On the SDGs, we don’t have the exclusive responsibility. A lot of strategic planning work is being done in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia [AU headquarters]. We are coordinating with the other actors in the AU that deal with the SDGs and Agenda 2063 so we don’t duplicate each other’s functions. We are also talking to the UN.
To measure progress, you need to access data. Yet up-to-date government statistics might not be readily available. How do you address this challenge?
We do generate data ourselves, but the problem is we have not been managing our data well. We’re now digitizing it under the African Governance Data-Hub and will link it up with our national offices to set up a one-stop shop on data—which can be updated and strategically harnessed and deployed. When we review countries, one of the big challenges is politicized data, for example on unemployment rate. Workers’ unions will give you a certain figure but the government will say, “No, it’s less.” Then the private sector will say something else. So you can get three sets of data on the same issue. At APRM we have a process to validate and verify data, but stakeholders, including the government, have to agree with the data.
How does APRM engage the young generation?
We are organizing with some of our partners a youth event in Namibia. We are creating a youth desk in our communications section and we are also linking up with universities. We have a group of young people working with us and we also have an internship program. I have recruited many young people who are doing an excellent job. So one of the things we have achieved is capacity building, capacity development and bringing the youth into the APRM. A contingent of youth from the AU will be joining the APRM in the next few months. We hope to integrate and use the youth in our review missions.
Do your country reports highlight youth issues?
At the country level, yes. If a country is not doing enough to address the plight of the youth, it will come up in the report and we will make recommendations. It is usually one of the crosscutting issues in our reports.
What about gender equality and women’s empowerment?
It’s also a crosscutting issue. We don’t just confine women to socioeconomic issues, but also to the political sphere and the leadership. If we find that a country does not have enough representation of women in political offices, for example in parliament, we highlight it. The AU has set some targets, and if a country is not working hard enough towards achieving those targets, we say so in our reports. Following our reports, some countries take necessary measures to bring more women into leadership.
What is your final message to African countries?
It’s clearly that good governance is the solution to the problems that we have on our continent. Peace and security challenges are largely the manifestation of governance challenges such as how we manage our elections. Even issues relating to terrorism, management of diversity, development and others are all about governance. Good governance in Africa is an enabler; there is a bottleneck if it’s not there. So governance is key! Governance is the route for Africa to claim the century.
Source: Africa Renewal