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Capital: What are the instruments you are using to measure African countries’ governance?
Kojo Busia (Ph.D.): The APRM (African Peer Review Mechanism) is a governance self-monitoring instrument that emerged out of the Africa Union’s (AU) New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) launched in 2002, even though the instrument itself was established in 2003. The measures used in monitoring progress is a set of objectives, criteria and indicators on all dimensions of governance including political, economic, corporate and socio-economic development. The instrument is a self-assessment based on a declaration that African states themselves have adopted and agreed upon, so it only attempts to measure progress towards meeting commitments that have been mutually agreed upon and not superimposed by any external actor or actors. Of course, once the self assessment is conducted, it is subject to a validation process by African states themselves, as peers and not as outsiders, trying to judge Africans. The validation process results in a Country Review Report which is then submitted to the Heads of States Summit called the APRM Forum that meets twice a year during each African Union summit.
Capital: How do you rate the success or failure of APRM during its decade old existence?
Busia: The APRM has registered remarkable successes during its first decade of existence in terms of the number of countries that have signed up for the mechanism, the rolling out of the structures and processes required in undertaking the country self-assessments, level of engagement by national stakeholders in the process, the number of structural and systemic issues that have been identified that need to be addressed and the impact it is having in the way in which African states think about development. There are a number of intangible positive impacts that the APRM has contributed to that may not be readily discernible but very real. Firstly, although a voluntary mechanism, the rate of participation in the APRM process has been growing steadily since 2003. As of this AU Summit that has just ended, thirty four countries had voluntarily acceded by signing the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) – representing about 75 per cent of the continent’s population. Member countries now include Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.
Secondly, the number of countries that have actually gone through the full cycle of the review has also increased, albeit slower than expected. As of this last summit, 17 countries have completed the review process which resulted in full Country Review Reports and they are at different stages of implementing the recommendations as contained in the National Program of Action.
Thirdly, the mechanism has registered remarkable success in the sense that the reviews conducted thus far have earned the reputation for professionalism, integrity and forthrightness and are being taken seriously by the participating countries. There is not a single case of political manipulation of the reports by the APRM panel. This is a clear departure from the norm in a continent where the practice had been “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” during the years of the OAU.
Fourthly, the APRM marks a paradigm shift by providing a new mechanism with a participatory process that identifies governance deficiencies, verifies the adoption, consolidation and prescription of appropriate policies for achieving the socio-economic and political objectives of NEPAD.
Finally, the APRM has spearheaded a shift in paradigm from external to domestic accountability in policy making, which is a major part of the aid effectiveness agenda. It marks a shift away from satisfying the conditions and preferences of external actors (IMF/WB) to internal constituencies of citizens. This also implies the move away from dependency on external ideas to more internally-driven policy making and setting of priorities.
Capital: What is the policy and structural advice in regards to issues of good governance and accountability you provide to those countries that have acceded to the APRM?
Busia: The APRM process and the ensuing reports have brought to the fore a number of sensitive governance issues that were considered taboo before. In part, due to the methodology of the APRM which is based on a participatory self-assessment process and an external but friendly peer review, a number of systemic and structural issues have been identified that need immediate attention if African states are to make progress towards good governance. These issues require a holistic approach in the search for solutions because of the wider impact they have on the quality of governance in all its dimensions. Generally, the APRM Country Review process has given advice to African governments on four major systemic issues: (a) Management of Diversity (b) Corruption (c) Land Resource Management and Governance and (d) Elections. One important addition of value obtained from the APRM process is that the reports flag these systemic issues and allows African leaders and their citizens to have open and frank dialogues and find collective solutions through the sharing of best practices and peer learning. This has proven to be an invaluable contribution of the APRM process to African governance.
For example, the reports of almost all countries have focused on the importance on the challenges in managing diversity, which is reflected in the form of race, ethnicity and or religion. These countries stand to gain from the full potential of diversity by managing it at political, economic and social levels. On the other hand, if the advice is not heeded, countries may end up paying the full cost of not managing diversity properly. This has actually happened in the case of some countries where warning and policy advice about issues relating to elections and diversity management were ignored with heavy consequences. In this sense, the mechanism has proven to be an effective early warning mechanism. The diagnostic strength of the mechanism makes it a promising tool to identify key areas of intervention and to set priorities for reform.
Capital: Can we say African countries, that have evaluated themselves using the APRM process and have been evaluated by their peers so far, have shown noticeable shifts in areas of concern after APRM reports have been published?
Busia: As you probably know, one of the core principles of the APRM is peer learning through best practices of policies across the continent. Showcasing and highlighting best practices of governance within Africa has a tremendous impact on peer countries within the APRM mechanism. The ‘best practices’ that are meant to be highlighted in each report are a way to celebrate achievements and to enhance the constructive and non-punitive character of the APRM. Each country review report therefore contains a brief mention of ‘best practices’, both in terms of unique national approaches to addressing governance challenges or contributions to the regional public good, including peace, security and socio-economic development. Thus we have, for instance Ghana being praised for a deepening democratic culture; South Africa for its unique “decentralized governance system”; Kenya for decreasing its dependence on foreign aid; Rwanda for outstanding achievements in social services and gender equality and Nigeria for contributing to regional peace and security in West Africa. These best practices foster opportunities and a conducive environment for systematic mutual learning and exchange based on participation, openness and trust within and between countries while internalizing and mainstreaming lessons learned, new thinking and best practices.
There is increasing evidence that African countries are beginning to learn from each other through this practice of peer learning and, in some cases, peer pressure. That would lead ultimately to shifts in terms of governance policies and behaviours. This is a positive development in the governance culture in Africa.
Capital: Recently an APRM report on Ethiopia was launched. Could you highlight some of the findings of the report?
Busia: Ethiopia was among one of the pioneer countries to join the APRM in March 2003. It may interest you to know that the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who served as the Chairperson of both NEPAD and APRM, made invaluable contributions toward the governance of this uniquely African mechanism and helped to institutionalize it within the AU governance architecture just as he was the key African spokesman on many of the issues that NEPAD was concerned with. This is to say that Ethiopia has been a leading African country in the APRM process from the beginning.
As you rightly indicated, the APRM report for Ethiopia was finalized and launched in January 2013 and is now available to the entire public, according to the APRM regulations. The report highlights noteworthy achievements in all the thematic areas of the APRM including political, economic, social and corporate governance. The report applauds Ethiopia’s two decades of relative peace and stability in a very volatile sub-region of the horn. Ethiopia’s creative approach to federalism is also praised because it moves away from regarding ethnicity as a negative social force and rather utilizing its value for democracy and development. In the areas of economic governance, Ethiopia is singled out among African states, as having registered the most robust economic growth performance and sustained reforms with significant positive outcomes in people’s lives. Likewise, the report emphasises Ethiopia’s commendable and best practice in macro-economic management in the areas of inflation control, employment creation, domestic resource mobilization and the decline of fiscal deficits, food security, export promotion, private sector development and investment. On key socio-economic indicators, the report noted several advances in key areas of socio-economic development, such as an increase in primary school enrolments, significant decline in child mortality, increased access to potable water and encouraging reduction in poverty rates.
Despite these remarkable achievements by Ethiopia, the report signals a lot of challenges that needs to be looked at, if Ethiopia is to make headway in its governance. For example, the report warns that Ethiopia’s federalism faces the challenge of deepening inclusive participatory processes and strengthening institutions of political, economic and social governance that manage diversity effectively and improves national cohesion. The report advises that a culture of constructive engagement and dialogue ought to be cultivated and nurtured to reconcile differences among politicians and also vis-à-vis the larger Ethiopian society. In the socio-economic realm, the report noted growing concerns about Ethiopia’s capacity to cope with the implications of a growing population for economic growth, job creation, food security and service provision. Another area of concern highlighted on the Ethiopian report is on land policy which is hotly contested. The land tenure policy debate is divided along two diametrically opposed views in regards to property rights. The government’s position of state ownership of land is challenged by advocates of privatization of property rights. The report encourages dialogues between these two positions and an amicable solution found based on best practices within Africa. Finally, the report calls attention to the perennial challenge of gender inequality in Ethiopian society and calls for measures that would remove social and cultural practices and obstacles inhibiting progress. These are some of the structural challenges that the Ethiopian report underlines in the report.
Capital: What would you say has been the reception on the reports in African countries whose APRM evaluation has been published? To add to that, what would you say have been the challenges faced and still is, to conduct an APRM report?
Busia: Invariably, most African states have been very receptive and gracious about their APRM reports and have committed to put policies in place to address the challenges that have been highlighted. Part of this reaction is the realization that the APRM reports truly reflect the realities and exigencies of governance conditions in the countries. As mentioned earlier, the self-assessment approach allows citizens and organized civil society to speak out and participate fully in the evaluation process. Thus, the concerns are not the biases or preferences of the APR panel of Eminent Personalities who oversee the writing of these reports, but rather the actual voices of citizens. This is one reason why the peer review is a very powerful diagnostic tool and very hard to reject outright. It is very hard to contest the findings of the reports.
The most formidable challenges faced in conducting the APRM reports have been in relation to organizational and institutional issues both within the APRM participating countries as well as the continental structures put in place to undertake the reviews. The governance framework of the APRM process at the continental level has not been as smooth, cohesive and collective as expected – the accountability chain among the Forum, the APR Panel, the Secretariat and the National Focal Points need strengthening. In many of the participating countries, the organizational capacities to undertake country self-assessment do not match the responsibilities assigned to some of the structures. National secretariat, national governing councils and national focal points lack human, financial and institutional resources to undertake their roles and functions effectively.
At the national level, the tri-partite partnership between the state, civil society and the private sector should be strengthened. This partnership must go beyond the self-assessment phase to involve CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) and the private sector in monitoring the implementation of the national plan of actions after the peer review forum. And, there is a strong need to revisit the rules of engagement of the APRM; in this regard, the suggestion has been made for a binding Charter rather than an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) to guide the APRM-participating member states.
Capital: How many countries have acceded to the APRM so far, and how many of them have had reports published on them?
Busia: There are currently 34 APRM participating countries out of which 17 have gone through the entire process; and there are about four among the 17 countries that would soon undergo their second round of country reviews.
Capital: What makes APRM unique from other continental or international evaluation mechanisms African countries have been subjected to so far?
Busia: The APRM constitutes one of the most ambitious and innovative governance exercises undertaken in Africa and provides important opportunities for public policy dialogue. Its approach is unique in both its scope and breadth, because the comparable OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) is limited to a sectoral review of member states and the consultation process involved is technical but not political in nature. The initiative is the first of its kind in Africa, and indeed in the world. It takes a comprehensive view of all aspects of a country’s governance system. It marks a paradigm shift by providing a new mechanism and with a participatory process that identifies governance deficiencies, verifies the adoption, consolidation and prescription of appropriate policies for achievement of the socio-economic and political objectives of NEPAD.
Many observers have noted its superior participatory process as compared to previous development approaches such as the PRSP (Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers). It marks a shift away from satisfying the conditions and preferences of external actors as was the case of structural adjustment policies to internal constituencies of citizens. In a very profound way it moves Africa away from dependency on external ideas to more internally-driven policy making and setting of priorities through peer learning of regional best practices.
It is also geared towards encouraging more regional orientation of policies – comparing progress with each other rather than with other regions of the world – South-South cooperation rather than North-South unequal interaction with a psychological boost of self-confidence. This inward looking approach to policy research, formulation and accountability to domestic rather than to external constituents has led to an institutional capacity development that is organic rather than superimposed from outside.
Capital: One of the issues facing African countries is how to better utilize the continent’s natural resources. In this regard, what would you say has been the APRM’s role in its effective utilization?
Busia: As you well know, the recent phenomenal growth of African economies is directly linked to the natural resource boom in the last decade or so. However, unless Africa manages and governs these natural resources well, there would be numerous problems associated with the resource curse. Thus, in 2009, the African Union (AU) adopted a strategy document called the African Mining Vision (AMV) which provides an opportunity to broaden the role of minerals as the basis for transformation and industrialization of African economies. The APRM provides a veritable framework for mainstreaming and implementing the comprehensive approach of the AMV into Africa’s development policies and strategies. It also provides a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the AMV. As an inclusive, participatory and a broad-based African-led governance process, the APRM is the surest vehicle through which the AMV can be leveraged to enhance state-society policy dialogue on mineral resource governance and to ensure equitable and sustainable development.
Capital: There have been reports that a foundation is planned to be established under the name of the late Ethiopian PM, Meles Zenawi, under the wings of NEPAD. Could you elaborate on these plans and its intended purposes?
Busia: Yes. In fact this decision was unanimously endorsed by the NEPAD Heads of States’ Implementation Committee and will come into effect very soon. The Centre or foundation will pay tribute to the memory of the late Prime Minister as an outstanding African leader who fought so hard to push Africa’s development agenda on a global scale and whose philosophy and ideas were so central in efforts to construct developmental states in Africa. As mentioned, the late Prime Minister made immense contributions to the aims and objectives of both NEPAD and the APRM. May his soul rest in peace!