The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) as a tool to improve governance – How does it unfold at country level and how to engage with it

The research team’s main goal was to contribute to international discussions around African initiatives on governance. With the case study Ghana, the research team looked into the way this presumably participatory process unfolded in the country. More importantly so, however, it enquired how the agenda of the Peer Review is taken forward in the country one year after the report was published.

Project Lead:
Sven Grimm

Project Team:

Kristin Nawrath
Robert Roth
Simon Triebel
Britta Utz

Time frame:
2006 - 2007 / completed

Co-operation Partner:

Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Accra (Ghana)
Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria (South Africa)

Project description

'Good Governance' has been acknowledged as one of the keys to countries' development. One of the governance framework, built on an initiative of African heads of state and embraced by the African Union, is the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). A special feature of NEPAD is the APRM, which sets out the governance preconditions for development. Four governance areas are the focus of reviews done under the APRM. Good records in these areas are regarded as important preconditions for (economic) development:

  • Democracy and Political Governance
  • Economic Governance and Management
  • Corporate Governance
  • Socio-Economic Development

NEPAD does not only deal with socio-economic issues, it also addresses the once taboo topic of political governance. The APRM, similar to peer reviews within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), is a system of voluntary self-assessment (i.e. countries choose to sign up), constructive peer dialogue and persuasion (building on contacts between heads of state), as well as the sharing of experiences among members. All countries acceding to the APRM are expected to improve their governance, buying into a set of identified preconditions and implementing recommendations given by a forum of African leaders.
Previously conducted assessments have shown some overall improvements in political representation throughout Africa, while shortcomings in governance prevail. Based on the analysis that governance deficits hinder African development, NEPAD aspires at improving cross-country cooperation and, through the APRM, mutual learning in Africa, as well as exercising peer pressure where necessary to improve Africa’s governance record.
One of its key features – and arguably a pre-requisite for APRM’s success – is its character as an African exercise and thus strong ‘ownership’ by African countries. Donor support to this mechanism therefore is a delicate issue as it risks compromising the credibility of the process. However, numerous donor countries search for ways of supporting governance initiatives and have dedicated additional funding to this field, not least so the European Union with its Governance Initiative (€ 3 billion between 2007 and 2013) and the announced UK’s Governance and Transparency Fund (ca. € 150 million over the next five years).

The case of Ghana
Particularly in often troubled West Africa, Ghana sticks out as a country with a moderate, but persistent economic growth and successes in poverty reduction over the last decade. Well endowed with natural resources, Ghana has roughly twice the per capita output of the poorer countries in West Africa. Ghana is considered one of the good performers in Africa also due to its political stability and relatively participatory rule (free and fair elections with high turnouts, press freedom). Some donors even regard Ghana as a ‘model country’ in West Africa, where key conditions (not least: political will) for reform towards a conducive environment for development exist. It is thus considered one of the key countries for the implementation of good governance programmes. The country, therefore, has become a laboratory for numerous good governance initiatives and has produced a number of strategic planning instruments.
Ghana has been the first country to have completed the first full-cycle peer review mechanism in Africa; its country report has been launched in early 2006. At the same time, Ghana presented a National Plan of Action to address the shortcomings identified in the APR. At the parallel to the Plan of Action, the country has a poverty reduction strategy, originally developed as a pre-requisite for debt relief and now widely recognized as a key strategic framework for poverty reduction. And with regard to core governance issues, the country is also participating in other initiatives such as the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiatives (EITI), which it piloted in 2003. Nevertheless, as various assessments have analysed, severe shortcomings in governance continue to exist, e.g. problems with institutional effectiveness, and persistent, wide-spread corruption in the civil service. Additionally,
Ghana remains heavily dependent on international development assistance, which amounts to about one tenth of the country’s GDP and about a third of the government’s budget.
Donor engagement in Ghana has aimed at taking governance concerns on board in their programming. The European Commission has identified governance as one of its cross-cutting issues in international cooperation, particularly so in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana is a focal country of German, French, Dutch and Danish development assistance, to name but a few European donors. German cooperation, for instance, focuses on three areas, one of which is “democracy, civil society and public administration”.

The research team’s main goal is to contribute to international discussions around African initiatives on governance. With the case study Ghana, the research team shall look into the way this presumably participatory process unfolded in the country. More importantly so, however, it shall enquire how the agenda of the Peer Review is taken forward in the country one year after the report was published.
The enquiry is twofold. The first level of analysis concerns the follow-up of the national APR process: How is the National Plan of Action synchronized with other initiatives in Ghana aiming at improvements in governance? To elaborate on the question, the research team – in a first step – will need to identify stakeholders that follow-up on the agenda and its implementation. In a second step, the team will look into strategies of stakeholders for engaging with the process and/or potential conflicts with other processes. The second level of analysis concerns the role of international support to the improvement of governance in Ghana: How do donors engage with the APRM and its follow-up? A key concern with regard to donor engagement are potential lines of conflict with regard to the African or rather ‘Ghanaian character’ of the review.
The precise research approach will have to be determined during a preparatory mission to Ghana, during which the Ghanaian counterpart will have to be identified. It is envisaged that a Ghanaian research institute would participate in elaborating the research approach and inform the research team. A staff member of the partner institution will be invited to DIE in late 2006/early 2007 in order to prepare the field research. Ways will have to be sought to include the regional/continental dimension of the APRM.
The work will be analysing a moving target. However, it should enable the group to tentatively make statements about the potential of the APRM in one of the relatively well-performing countries in Africa. Given the pioneer role of Ghana, the outcome of this study should be relevant to those countries that are currently undergoing or are planning to undergo the peer review process. At the same time, the research team’s study should lead to recommendations to the donor community (in particular German development cooperation) on how to address governance issues in Ghana identified in the APRM process without compromising the process itself.

Relevant publications:
Grimm, Sven / Kristin Nawrath (2007): Der African-Peer-Review-Mechanismus: eine Abkehr vom Krähenprinzip?, Externe Publikationen