The APRM: a continental model for South-South Cooperation and an exceptional tool for the implementation of Africa’s integration Agenda

The APRM: a continental model for South-South Cooperation and an exceptional tool for the implementation of Africa’s integration Agenda

The APRM: a continental model for South-South Cooperation and an exceptional tool for the implementation of Africa’s integration Agenda

By Ms. Sara Tawfik, APRM Continental Secretariat

Four decades have already passed since the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA) as a comprehensive framework for technical cooperation among developing countries (TCDC) in 1978. Throughout that era, a plethora of socioeconomic and political transformations and challenges took place at global, continental and national levels. Africa has been the staging ground for major South-South Cooperation (SSC) initiatives since the 1970s. The establishment of the Organization of African Unity in 2002, currently known as the African Union, the African Economic Community, The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Peer Review Mechanism in 2003 laid the early evidence of African efforts to promote the SSC at continental level in addition to Africa’s engagement with emerging actors from Asia, Latin America and the Gulf region.
Under its revitalized role given by the AU, the APRM is assigned to support the implementation of Agenda 2063 for Africa – declared by the AU member states (MSs) in 2013 as a blueprint for the continent’s voice for sustainable development. Considering this role and the 40th Anniversary of BAPA that will be held in Buenos Aires in March 2019, this article highlights the guiding principles of the SSC, its significance for the implementation of SDGs from an African perspective, the APRM’s SSC experience and the main challenges and opportunities to strengthen this type of cooperation at the continental level in Africa.

South-South Cooperation: principles and distinctive features from triangular cooperation

There has never been a singular definition of SSC since the concept was devised. Different organizations elaborated general definitions for the SSC such as the UNDP, UNFPA, and specialized agencies devoted to supporting the developing countries’ own development model. The Partners in Population and Development (PPDs) defines SSC as an international cooperation strategy that aims at empowering developing countries to uplift the quality of life of their citizens in mutual respect and in recognition of the specificity and comparative advantage of each country in their ability to influence the development agenda.”.

The adoption of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 significantly strengthened SSC as a platform to implement the development agenda in the developing and the least developing countries (DCs& LDCs). Furthermore, the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005) and Accra Agenda for Action (2008) introduced major shifts towards the traditional donor-recipient relation to be based on mutual accountability and donors’ alignment of their strategies to the recipient countries’ needs and national development plans. The Accra Agenda recognized the significance of sharing experiences among developing countries. It also stressed that SSC preserves principles such as respect to non-interference in internal affairs, national sovereignty, cultural diversity, and local content. The Nairobi Outcome in the UN high-level conference on SSC in 2009 also indorsed that SSC is different from ODA as ‘a partnership among equals, based on equality’ and that “the South-South Cooperation is not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North-South Cooperation.” Triangular Cooperation thus has a clear distinction from the SSC since it offers technical cooperation among developing countries which is financially supported by northern donors or international organizations, whereas SSC often provides technical assistance on a project level and is not limited to ‘aid’ but rather cost-sharing schemes and knowledge transfer rather than conditionality based- programs or budget support.

SSC’s contribution to the SDGs’ implementation in Africa and the partnership with south regional players

The dynamism for SSC perfectly emerged with the linear economic integration ambitions in Africa. The creation of the AU represents the most visible SSC efforts at the continental level. Also, the treaties to push the African economic integration forward; Lagos Plan of Action (1980), Abuja treaty (1991), the foundation of Regional Economic Communities and recently the Continental Free Trade Agreement CFTA (2018) were adopted . The African countries intensified SSC programs to support the implementation of the MDGs& SDGs since the beginning of the third millennium especially the goals aligned to poverty reduction, healthcare, education, infrastructure connectivity, and food security considering the continent’s dependency on the agricultural sector as one of the main GDP resources. Among the nonexhaustive list of SSC examples are; 1) the Agriculture Development and Enhanced Food Security in the MENA and Central Asia. The project includes Algeria, Morroco, Tunisia, and other Asian countries to share experiences on agriculture technology and public-private partnership in this field.; 2) TRANSFORM project supported by African Union and South Africa which aims at developing technical and leadership skills between 6 African countries; Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Emerging economies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America reinvigorate the value of SSC to meet the extreme volatility in the north since the global financial crisis in 2008. According to the OCED, SSC financial flows grew by 78% from 2006- 2010 to reach $20 billion by 2017. However, it is delivered to a handful number of countries in the south, mainly the BRICSs (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). Most notably, investments from emerging markets to Africa more than doubled since 2010. China, India, Brazil, Turkey, and Indonesia are identified among the most active SSC’s partners and investors to Africa adding to the Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia and Emirates. China- Africa Development Fund is probably one of the most visible initiatives for SSC. During the last decade, China has signed up to 50 agreements with African countries totaled $11 billion to support SSC initiatives. By 2018, this number jumped to account $ 60 billion as China’s commitment to providing technical support and capacity building programs for selected projects in education and training, health, infrastructure development, tourism and skills exchange across the African continent. Some African countries have made tremendous economic progress and strongly maintained their economic growth at an annual average of 4%-7% despite the global economic crisis of 2008. Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria are among the fastest-growing economies globally in addition to high performing African economies such as Algeria, Botswana Egypt, Morocco, Mauritius, Tunisia, and South Africa
the agreements between African Countries and south partners, a progressive institutionalized manner was followed by SSC’s partners to organize their interregional efforts through various forums such as China-Africa, India-Africa and Africa- South America summits to set strategies and agendas to enhance policy coordination and announce joint initiatives. Moreover, the foundation of new development banks and financial institutions, the New Development Bank (BRICS) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank emphasized a new shift in strengthening the southern developing countries’ ownership to finance their initiatives. The Islamic Development Bank and other Arab funding institutions, the Arab Fund for Socio-economic Development, Kuwaiti Fund, Saudi Development Fund and Abu-Dhabi fund alike, strengthened their collaboration to align their policies and technical cooperation with Arab and African states.

Given this context, optimism for SSC in Africa is recognized. Meanwhile, it is worthy to argue that inter-horizontal regional or sub-regional cooperation in Africa has been faint compared to African countries’ intensive collaboration with emerging economies outside the continent. Africa remained fragmented due to lack of connectivity, high costs of intra-Africa trade – which remains on average 12%, inefficiency of local bureaucracies, price volatility and high costs of doing business, dependency on primary commodities as well as several spots of political instability and civil conflicts. Thirty African countries remain under the LDCs category. Africa’s contribution to global exports dropped from 8% in 1948 to 3.3% by 2000 and 3% by 2016 while the imports from the rest of the world account for 90%. Though the FDI to Africa was projected to jump to $150 billion by 2015, recent data shows that FDI has generally declined by 21% in 2017 compared to 2016 to reach only $ 42 billion at the continental level. Asia remains the first attractive continent for FDI from South-South financial flows. South Africa is leading sub-regional economic integration through Southern African Development Community by encouraging rigorous reforms in the southern African region adding to being classified as the largest investor in Africa from 2007-2013.

APRM’s significance for sharing good governance practices between AU member states and current efforts to promote the implementation of Agenda 2063.
The APRM represents an exceptional tool for SSC at the continental level to promote good governance practices and the AU values. Since its foundation, the mechanism conducted various country reviews to highlight key issues and challenges for socio-economic development in Africa. As a self-assessment and voluntary mechanism endorsed by the membership of 37 African countries, the APRM has stronger ties with all AU MSs at national levels to follow up the implementation of the National Plans of Action (NPoAs), National Development Plans (NDPs) and other governance-related issues. Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Chad, Djibouti, Kenya, Mauritania, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, and Uganda have actively engaged in the National review processes. Till date, the APRM accomplished 24 country reviews. Furthermore, the APRM has devoted the SSC dialogue between AU MSs for sharing best practices among African countries as well as the significant role of the private sector and Civil Society Organizations in shaping the NDPs and supporting African governments’ agendas for sustainable development.

The adoption of the Agenda 2063 and the SDGs empowered the APRM as the AU expanded the APRM’s mandate to support African countries in the implementation of the SDGs, particularly SDG 16; peace, justice, and strong institutions and Aspiration 3 and 4 of the Agenda 2063 which focuses on promoting good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law. The APRM thus hosted a two-day dialogue in May this year on South-South Cooperation in the context of the 2030 Agenda on the APRM experience. The dialogue sought to bring together different experts and policymakers from AU MSs, international and regional organizations involved in SSC including the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, ISDB, Permanent Mission of Uganda to the UN -which chairs the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation to position Africa in the SSC global debate strategically and coherently. The dialogue brought out many challenges for SSC in Africa such as:
– Need for an adequate database on SSC at regional and continental level.
– Lack of an institutional framework to operationalize the SSC initiatives.
– Limited financing resources and sometimes duplicated and overlapped SSC funded projects.
– Political sensitivity and conflicts which hinder the SSC among developing countries.
– Limited analysis, monitoring, and evaluation mechanisms for the SSC initiative and programs in Africa.

Formulating African position for the upcoming BAPA+40 conference was also endorsed during the APRM’s dialogue with key SSC’s players in Africa. Therefore, the APRM will keep working on coordinating African efforts and following up with the Pan African organizations’ committee assigned to this concern to come up with a unified voice for Africa which reassuring its comparative advantages and needs. Besides, the APRM will strengthen sub-regional dialogue among MSs to share best practices of good governance in thematic issues of high concern at AU levels, such as corruption, gender equality, and illicit financial flows. The current preparations for the state of governance report in Africa in collaboration with the African Governance Architecture are perceived as a significant achievement to assess the overall continent’s regional initiatives and developments to see how Africa can represent itself at the BAPA+40.


The SSC notion aims to create a new developmental model in a context of multilateralism and based on sharing of experiences, technical support and human development capacities among the south nations rather than sticking to the traditional north-south development paradigm. The global and regional changes and the rise of emerging donors over the last four decades aligned with progressive efforts and advances steps taken by African countries significantly positioned Africa as a strategic partner and broaden the continent’s external SSC cooperative ties. Meanwhile, Africa is still lagging Asia as FDI receiver, intra-African trade remains low and Africa’s contribution to global trade is still marginal. Many African countries face serious challenges for the implementation of SDGs. Consequently, the AU MSs and Pan-African organizations should intensify sub regional and regional coordination to boost the SSC among the DCs and LDCs within the continent. The APRM will keep tracking the AU MSs’ discussions, policies, and strategies in which relevance to good governance and building effective institutions to promote the implantation of the Agenda 2063 for Africa and build strong partnership with the SSC organizations and actors.

South-South Cooperation milestones 1961: Non- aligned movement (NAM) was founded
1963: Organization of African Unity is established
1964: 1st UNCTAD conference was held and the G77 was created
1975: Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is set up.
1978: Buenos Aires conference on TCDC
1980: Southern African Development Coordination Conference – SADCC is founded as part of the Lusaka Declaration.
1989: NAM established the group for South-South Consultation and Coordination (G15).
1994: The Treaty of Establishment of the West African Economic and
Monetary Union (UEMOA)
1995: reorientation of BAPA
1997: Istanbul declaration to enhance cooperation among 8 developing countries (Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia)
1999: G20 was created
2000: G-77 held its first south summit in Havana. Havana Plan of Action is adopted to foster SSC.
2002: World Summit on Sustainable development in South Africa called for stronger regional and sub-regional actions towards the SSC
2003: India, Brazil and South Africa sign the Brasilia Declaration setting up the IBSA Forum.
2002: The New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD)
2003: Marrakech Declaration was adopted to prioritize Technology transfer and skill development, eliminating trade barriers between countries of the south.
2004 the forum creates the IBAS Fund for alleviation of poverty and hunger in the South.
2005: Doha declaration is adopted for enhancing capacities, mechanisms, institutions to strengthen the south-south cooperation
2009: Nairobi outcome document stresses on mutual benefits between emerging economies and expand participation on triangular cooperation