Why Zimbabwe should accede to the African Peer Review Mechanism


Moving from 6 founding member States in 2003 to 37 in September 2018 on a voluntary basis demonstrates the willingness of African Heads of States and Governments to improve their governance.

This article by Lennon Monyae

This article discusses some factors that may benefit Zimbabwe pays more attention to Pan-African multilateral institutions such as the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).
Zimbabwe’s domestic and foreign policy in the period following the watershed July 2018 Presidential elections, will be imperative in generating a positive perception for Zimbabwe, and ease the country out of the turbulence of the previous regime’s legacy that had crippled the economy and subsequently its people.
Since the departure of Former President Robert Mugabe, the world is optimistic about Zimbabwe’s economic recovery and possible increased international relations participation. The landmark land redistribution of the 2000s, the political violence, the attacks on the fundamental political, democratic and human rights of ordinary citizens and the steady erosion of the public service was used by the European Union as well as the USA to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe.
This had a catastrophic impact on the Zimbabwean economy and the working and living conditions of its people.
Despite post-election violence which claimed the lives of 6 Zimbabweans, all election observers including the AU Election Observer Mission (AUEOM) led by Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, assisted by Minata Samate Cessouma, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, declared the election relatively peaceful and well-administered.

Zimbabwe’s accession to the APRM

The endorsement by the AU and other international election observers thus enabled Zimbabwe to reclaim its space as an important player in the African and the international arena. The country can join the APRM as a powerful turnaround from governance regression.

In fact, the act of signing of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 21 March 2018 on the sidelines of the recent African Union (AU) Extraordinary Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda, is a sign of the new government’s commitment to upholding the values of good governance.

Consequently, Zimbabwe’s accession to the APRM will indeed serve as a paradigm shift from prior isolation to reintegration with the global community vis-a-via the quest for good governance on the African Continent.

From an optimistic and enthusiastic young African’s vantage point, Zimbabwe’s agreement to accede to the objectives of the APRM will be a major step in its evolution into reintegration and globalised social development.

It will also set Zimbabwe on the right path towards sound governance and regulation, a prerequisite for rapid socioeconomic development.

Prerequisites for Social and Economic Development Statistics from the AU Peace and Security Council and research institutions such as the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution and Disputes, the Centre for Systemic Peace, the Uppsala Conflict Data Project and the Institute of Security Studies all allude to the 1980s as Africa’s lost decade.

Accelerated progress in inclusive participation

However, the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index on good governance supports Africa’s positive outlook by explaining that in the past 10 years (2007-2017), 40 African countries have improved in overall governance. Without a doubt, the positive trend is fuelled by accelerated progress in inclusive participation with free and fair elections as a major indicator, the transparent exercise of democracy and the valuing of strong democratic institutions and structures.

It is widely accepted that peace and security form a vital foundation for good governance which can be a platform for economic growth and development. In addition, developing countries in Africa and the world at large have clearly illustrated that good governance is critically important for transformational and sustainable economic development.

The APRM as an institution has promoted good governance on the continent for 15 years and has demonstrated the exponential benefits that come with acceding to the APRM. Member States use the country review reports from the peer reviews to leverage further bi- and multi-lateral agreements and assess their own progress in all areas of governance.

President Adama Barrow of the Gambia, in acceding to the APRM mandate, provided a view of Gambia’s governance following the forced removal of the previous leader, Yahya Jammeh.

In so doing the government of President Barrow is poised to build from a clean slate and a position of knowledge of their strengths and challenges.
The number of African countries voluntarily joining the APRM has exponentially increased.

Zimbabwe’s neighbours

In 2017, President Hage Geingob of Namibia acceded to APRM. Botswana, Africa’s shining example and beacon of hope in good governance has indicated its imminent accession to the APRM.

These are Zimbabwe’s neighbours who have identified the APRM as a process that can add value to their quest for improved governance.

The increase in African sovereign leaders identifying the peer review process as a governmental priority is indicative of governments’ and leaders’ political will to focus on the improvement of their people’s lives, and transparency, which richly affects confidence and investment.

Good governance for Zimbabwe will usher in rapid economic development as it has done for most of its peers. If the APRM’s recommendations are adequately implemented in Zimbabwe it will most likely join countries like Ghana, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Senegal and Tanzania as Africa’s fast-growing economies.

The current government led by President Mnangagwa has already launched the, “Zimbabwe is open for business” campaign and this mantra should not be relegated to lip-service.

Harare should be more active in multilateral governance platforms such as the APRM to effectively transform rhetoric into practical steps that will boost investors’ confidence and international communities’ trust in the country’s intentions to become a more inclusive society.

About the APRM The Africa Peer Review Mechanism is a Specialised Agency of the African Union (AU), and was initiated in 2002 and established in 2003 by the AU in the framework of the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Open for business, open for peer review

It is widely heralded as the jewel in Africa’s crown for its pioneering initiative of being the only governance self-assessment and peer review system in the world.

The Mechanism is founded on 4 thematic areas, namely: Democracy and Political Governance; Economic Governance and Management; Corporate Governance; and Sustainable Socio-economic Development. Reviews conducted by the APRM vary depending on the circumstances of the country to be reviewed. They are as follows:
• Base Review – carried out immediately after a country becomes a member of the APRM;
• Periodic Review every four years;
• Requested Review – requested by the member country itself outside the framework of mandated reviews;
• A Review commissioned by the APR Forum (highest decision-making body of the APRM) when there are early signs of pending political and economic unrest.
The APR Forum of Heads of State and Government adopted the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan and the APRM Statute at the 25th Summit of the APR Forum held in Nairobi, Kenya.

This policy framework currently guides the operational trajectory of the mechanism. In addition, in 2017, the 28th AU Assembly of Heads of States and Government further extended the APRM’s mandate to include tracking of the implementation and overseeing the continent’s key governance initiatives.

Moreover, the AU Assembly extended the mandate of the APRM to include monitoring of the implementation of the African Union

For Zimbabwe’s new government, national reconciliation must be a priority for ensuring social cohesion.

The APRM is a tool for sharing experiences, reinforcing best practices, identifying deficiencies, and assessing capacity-building needs to foster policies, standards and practices that lead
to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration.

APRM Member States participate in the self-assessment of all branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial – as well as the private sector, civil society and the media.

The APRM Review Process gives member states a space for national dialogue on governance and socio-economic indicators and an opportunity to build consensus on the way forward.

Participation in the APRM remains voluntary; an interested country must volunteer to be reviewed by acceding to the APRM Mandate and signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Continental Secretariat based in Midrand, South Africa. The preamble of the APRM Statute highlights this “voluntary accession”, as a founding principal which makes the APRM unique.

The Benefits of Joining the APRM

The important benefit of joining theAPRM is the Country Self-Assessment Process. A Country Self-Assessment Report is drafted by a board church of stakeholders such as trade unions, civil society, political parties, youth and women represented in the APRM National Governing Council (NGC).
The NGC is the national statutory arm of the APRM which leads and supports domestic interests of all citizens.

Its mandate is to project the voice of the people. In addition, the consultative nature required in drafting the self-assessment report means that citizens are afforded the opportunity to paint a true picture of the country.

This then becomes a mirror for ordinary people to reflect, comment and add value to national governance.

Those who form part of the APRM have procedural and reflective governance self-assessment exercises that are outlined below:

1. Self-Reflection

When an AU Member State joins the APRM, it is expected to independently complete the APR Self-Assessment Questionnaire which gathers inputs from all stakeholders. A draft paper outlining the nation’s issues and a National Programme of Action (NPoA) with clear steps and guidelines on how it plans to conform to APRM’s codes and standards emanating from international legal instruments.

The Country Review Team is then set up to write a report outlining issues to be focused on during the review mission, which usually lasts for approximately three weeks.
Self-reflection is of utmost importance to any nation but produces even richer results when paired with the aims of the APRM.

Post-2018, Zimbabwe will have to have an honest view and reflection of the past, and then plot a route towards a prosperous future. The APRM process can potentially expedite this purpose.

A key benefit of the APRM is that it allows participating countries to not only take account of their own policies and practices, and monitor progress towards improvements, but also to learn from other African countries that have successfully implemented policies that have driven their growth.

2. Inclusive Participation

For the APRM to be effective, it requires the participation of all stakeholders in the country, including government, political parties, parliament, NGOs, private sector, academia, women’s groups, youth groups, trade unions and the community at large.

This is because the APRM’s philosophy is grounded in inclusive participation.
For Zimbabwe’s new government, national reconciliation must be a priority for ensuring social cohesion.

Again, the APRM can serve as a vehicle to usher in dialogue on difficult issues.
For example, the Liberia review mission gave opportunities to communities affected by civil war to talk about their experiences and most importantly to communicate with the government on their wishes.

3. Peer- Learning

Peer reviewed countries usually take lessons from the APRM Report and develop NPOAS which become part of their National Development Plans. Zimbabwe’s new leadership will be focused on mapping out a new path for the country. In this case, APRM can be a valued addition to this process.

Zimbabweans are spread all over the world in positions of power and influence. If Zimbabwe were able to harness the power of their human capital in the diaspora, they could expand their potential output including attracting foreign investments.

Countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and South Africa have a large diaspora community; their review reports can shed light into how Harare can better manage her relations with citizens abroad.

The challenge for Zimbabwe is the efficient and profitable use of its resources and businesses to uplift generations who have been locked into poverty.
Economic growth and development is essential for the country to successfully get its population out of poverty.

APRM’s Corporate Governance standards and codes can be harnessed with increased Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) on the continent. Zimbabwe can be rebuilt, and her industries and businesses will thrive as the country is home to vast mineral resources with untapped platinum and gold reserves.

In fact, Zimbabwe according to the latest audit has 92 recorded State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and 70% of them are technically insolvent.

4. Peer Review

The Peer Review takes place at the level of the APR Forum, using the APR panel’s report on the team’s findings as a basis. The APR Forum made up of APRM Heads of States meets annually to discuss governance issues in APRM reviewed countries.

The last APR Forum witnessed President Museveni of Uganda accounting for the governance developments in his country.

This means that APRM’s participating heads of states and Governments not only account to their citizens, they also receive guidance from fellow Heads of States and governments in the spirit of Pan-Africanism.

5. Early Warning Conflict Prevention

APRM Country Review Reports have previously served as early warning conflict prevention tools for reviewed countries. The APRM is currently working on a joint project with the African Governance Architecture (AGA) and African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) with the aim of Silencing the Guns by 2020 (based on the Agenda 2063 roadmap).

Countries that have undergone APRM review processes can be assisted in implementing their NPoAs to quell the underlying causes of looming crises.

Zimbabwe is not immune to violent conflict given the levels of polarisation which have developed from electoral disputes and ethnic tensions.
The early warning system can assist Zimbabwe to identify possible future conflict areas and with the assistance of the APRM take steps to prevent such conflicts from arising.

6. African Union Agenda 2063

United Nations Agenda 2030 (SDGs) (APRM Expanded Mandate)
The Proposed transformation of the AU led by President of Rwanda and current AU Chairperson, Paul Kagame, is outlined in the AU January 2017 report entitled, “The Imperative to Strengthen our Union: Report on the Proposed Recommendations for the Institutional Reform of the African Union” (commonly known as the “Kagame Report”).

In an AU Assembly Decision /AU/Dec.631(XXVIII) on the Revitalisation of the APRM during the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union, held on 30 – 31 January 2017, it was recommended that the APRM be strengthened to monitor and evaluate the implementation of AU Agenda 2063 and UN SDGs 2030 as well as track and monitor the implementation of key governance areas on the continent.


Since the launch of the APRM in 2003, many positive developments have emerged from this African good governance institution. Moving from 6 founding member States in 2003 to 37 in September 2018 on a voluntary basis demonstrates the willingness of African Heads of States and Governments to improve their governance.

As the Mechanism celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2018 with a goal of universal accession of all AU Member States, Zimbabwe has an ideal opportunity to realign its governance standards with global accepted governance standards by joining the APRM.

Many States have come from even worse conditions only to turn their societies around by facing their sometimes very painful realities in order to start with a solid and stable foundation based on truth.

From this base, infrastructure, economic and social development is easier because of the constant collaboration and objectivity of important institutions such as the APRM.

The majority of APRM founding members such as Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Algeria have started presenting themselves for second generation reviews.
Kenya and Uganda are pioneers, having undertaken second generation reviews.

Egypt, Lesotho, Mozambique and Cote d’Ivoire have also indicated their willingness to undergo reviews, a key indication of the trust that member States have in the mechanism. The timing seems perfect for Zimbabwe to join the APRM family. ■


Lennon Monyae works with the African Peer Review Mechanism Secretariat. This article appeared in The Thinker.



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