African peer review system fading fast
Gaborone - Africa’s ambitious programme of self-assessment, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) launched with great fanfare 12 years ago, is losing momentum.
The APRM, which critically scrutinises the political, economic, social and corporate governance of African states, is struggling to find the money to do its work because many member countries are not paying their dues.
Also 19 African countries have not volunteered and some of the 35 countries which have volunteered, refuse to be peer reviewed or to implement the APRM’s recommendations if they are reviewed.
The last peer review was done two years ago in 2013.
And every year, fewer of the heads of state of those countries which have joined, bother to attend the summits of the APR Forum – the mechanism’s governing body which are held on the sidelines of the African Union’s summit.
The APRM was very much the brainchild of former President Thabo Mbeki who launched it with other key leaders such as then Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.
These problems were spelt out at a conference taking place here which aims to assess the progress of the APRM and to “re-energise” it. It is organised by the SA Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA)
Dr Mustapha Mekideche, a member of the African Peer Review Panel of Eminent Persons, who is about to become it’s new chair, noted that the panel had recently been embarrassed when it agreed with Djibouti to review its governance, but then couldn’t find the money to do it.
The panel turned to the UN Development Program which initially agreed to provide funding, but then failed to deliver. “This is embarrassing for us. It could destroy our credibility,” he said.
“If we had all paid our dues, we would not have had to call upon our partners to pay,” he said. He said that the APRM would only succeed if African states took ownership of it by paying their dues. Mekideche, an Algerian, listed funding as the main, “existential” challenge which the APRM faced.
In the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Lesotho, Mauritius and Malawi are in arrears in their payments, according to latest figures given by APRM analysts. South Africa has paid much more than its dues, in part to compensate for
those who have not paid. Up to 2013 it had paid nearly US$10 million of the total of just over US$32 million in APRM dues paid in by all of its members in Africa.
The analysts also said that within SADC, Angola and Malawi had signed up to the APRM long ago, but had not yet submitted to peer review.
Mekideche said the second main challenge of APRM was to increase the number of volunteer states. He noted that many African governments turned to foreign experts and consultants for advice, while ignoring the opportunity of getting advice from the
APRM which had been widely praised by international organisations such as the OECD which peer reviews developed countries.
The”African solutions for African problems” would remain meaningless if African states did not take advantage of the APRM.
The organisers arranged the conference in Botswana, partly to try to encourage Botswana to join. But the government showed its disdain by failing even to send an official to attend the event, excusing itself because of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s visit to the country.
Mekideche also criticised nations which had joined the APRM but refused to submit to peer review. “And then we have countries which do peer review but then don’t complete it.”
Mekideche said joining the APRM only became meaningful when a country submitted to peer review and then accepted its recommendations by integrating them into their national development plans.
South Africa was one of the first countries which was peer reviewed, in 2007.
Analysts say that Pretoria claims that some of the APRM’s recommendations have been integrated into the National Development Plan, but not explicitly.