This case study of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) seeks to examine the lessons it holds about South–South knowledge exchange, South–South co-operation (SSC), capacity development and development effectiveness. The report is based on desk research, personal interviews and an online survey. It outlines the achievements, benefits and best practices of the APRM in its first 10 years of existence. It argues that the APRM offers many useful insights and important lessons related to intra-African SSC, knowledge exchange, capacity development and development effectiveness.
- The APRM is far more extensive and intensive in scale and ambition than the limited, sectoral peer reviews of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This African-developed, African-owned and African-driven system is the only one of its kind anywhere in the world where national leaders regularly convene to discuss governance in their countries and hold one another mutually accountable, as equals.
- The APRM has spurred governance reform, including through legislative and policy changes, the establishment and strengthening of governance institutions and enhanced scrutiny of policy implementation. In some cases, particularly where change has been strongly branded as APRM-inspired, there have been positive inflows of foreign direct investment and development assistance.
- The APRM has had to develop a credible, participatory system to report frankly, fairly and fully on national governance challenges, and its research methods and Country Review Reports (CRRs) have stood up to critical scrutiny. It has successfully established robust institutions, which continue to advance the process despite some of its original architects no longer being involved. There are also strong, committed drivers at national level.
- With some variations across countries, the APRM has increased the democratic space and provided a platform for non-state actors to engage constructively on governance and policy issues, including those related to alleviating poverty and advancing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the role of the private sector and informal economic sector, access to information and the freedom of the media, the electoral system, human rights and the management of the economy. In some countries, the APRM considerably enhanced the opportunities for and quality of policy dialogue.
- The CRRs that emerge are robust, credible and frank assessments of governance strengths and weaknesses, and codify knowledge around governance and development. Their similar structure allows for cross-country comparisons, and deeper analysis and comparative perspectives on vital continental issues, including managing diversity, land use and ownership, elections, corruption and aid effectiveness.
- The APRM has begun to develop a range of stakeholder peer groups, and to enhance the exchange of knowledge, skills, experiences and expertise among and between them. Apart from deficiencies, the reviews also highlight commendable or best practices, a rich area for peer learning and mutual exchange, bilaterally and regionally.
- The APRM has created a common governance vocabulary on the continent, and strengthened the work of governance activists to hold their governments accountable for pledges and promises. It has also stimulated further research and analysis, and created positive competition for innovation among members.
- Integrating the APRM with national budgets and development plans requires greater attention going forward, as do mechanisms for oversight of implementation and results, at both national and international level. There is much room to further prioritise, systematise and integrate the elements of SSC, knowledge exchange, capacity development and development effectiveness as the mechanism develops further.
- Key lessons emerge on the value of African solutions; the important community that the APRM is binding together; the importance of capturing lessons more regularly and systematically; the way the APRM is making leaders more comfortable with open policy debates; the way the APRM facilitates more inclusive policy-making; and the importance of leading by example.
- Implementation, reporting, monitoring and evaluation have all been identified as areas for improvement in the future, at the national and continental levels. The sustainability and replicability of these early results will rely on continued political will and high-level support; continuous renewal and innovation; robust governance systems; resources, both human and financial; support from national budgets; and assistance from development partners where appropriate. As the APRM enters its second decade, it will need to find ways to remain relevant and demonstrate its benefits for ordinary African citizens.