The Establishment, Strengthening
and Harmonization of APRM
By Mary Agbebaku-Izobo
The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is Africa’s most innovative and ambitious initiative on governance that
was launched in 2003. It is a voluntary mechanism for self and peer assessment of governance policies and practices
on the Continent. Thirty-seven (37) countries currently participate as members of the Mechanism, with Gambia acceding
as the 37th member at the 27th APR Forum of Heads of State and Government held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
on 27 January 2018. Twenty-One Member States have been reviewed by the APRM, with Sudan and Uganda having
completed their first and second peer reviews respectively in January 2018 while Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and Mozambique
(second review) are scheduled for reviews in January 2019.
Despite significant achievements such as the opening of political space, early warning mechanism, inclusivity and
participatory nature of the APRM, it has faced several challenges over the past few years. These include weak institutional
capacity of the Continental Secretariat, poor level of financial contributions from participating countries and a
diminished visibility of the APRM at the national and continental levels. However, the prospects of the Mechanism are
changing. A multi-pronged revitalization process was launched in 2016, following the appointment of the current Chief
Executive Officer, Professor Eddy Maloka and that effort has already produced significant and promising results. The
Statute for APRM integration into the AU structures and processes, the five-year APRM Strategic Plan spanning 2016-
2020, the extended mandate for monitoring and evaluating the AU Agenda 2063 and the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs), the tracking of key governance areas on the continent as adopted by the APR
Forum in August 2016 and January 2017 respectively, as well as the peer review of member states at the Summits of
the APR Forum, are some of the notable successes recorded during this shortol period.
As the APRM marks its 15th year anniversary, the importance of the national structures must be emphasized. This is
because national structures form an integral part of the APRM. The organization of inclusive and active national struc-
By Mary Agbebaku-Izobo
tures to implement the objectives of the APRM is pivotal to the success of the entire APRM processes. In addition, the
participation at the national level of distinct key stakeholders in the APRM is a significant aspect of enhancing the state
of governance, socio-economic development and management in the APRM member states.
Therefore, it is pertinent that APRM Member States take crucial measures to ensure that they establish national structures
where there are none, strengthen these national structures where they are weak and harmonize these structures
where there are discrepancies.
OBJECTIVES OF THE NATIONAL STRUCTURES AND THE APRM
The objective of establishing and strengthening national structures was enunciated in the Revised Supplementary
Documents on the APRM Guidelines adopted in Nairobi, Kenya, in August 2016 in which it was stated that ‘the organization
of an inclusive national structure to implement the APRM’s mandates is crucial to the success of the APRM
The APRM National Focal Point, the APRM National Governing Council/National Governance Commission (NGC),
the APRM National Secretariat, and Technical Research Institutes (usually ad hoc structures for the implementation
of the review process) are the structures that play a crucial role in the APRM process at the national level. Although
the founding documents from 2003 are silent on the national institutional mechanisms required to operationalize the
APRM vision, it did not take long for the APR Forum to realize that no credible review could take place in the absence
of structured, credible and representative national bodies. It was for this reason that the APR Forum, at its inaugural
meeting in 2004 in Kigali, Rwanda, approved the APR Panel’s recommendation that “participating countries immediately
take steps to identify or establish broad-based and all-inclusive APRM National Coordinating Structures where
they do not already exist” (see Paragraph 25 of the Summit Communiqué).
Since the implementation of this decision, national structures have grown to become the most important institutional
players in the APRM review process at the national level. In recognition of their role in the review process, the 2016
APRM Statute has put national structures on a solid legal foundation. As stated in Article 14 of the APRM Statute,
‘without prejudice to the inherent right of each Member State to organize its APRM national structures as it deems appropriate,
Member States shall endeavor to organize their national structures’. Despite these provisions, there are still
some Member states that have failed to establish their national structures; some have very passive national structures
and others have not harmonized their national structures according to the guidelines and supplementary guidelines for
the establishment of APRM national structures.
CHALLENGES FACED BY THE NATIONAL STRUCTURES
National structures are sometimes confronted with challenges. Some of these challenges include:
1. Non- conformity with policy direction and guidelines: National structures are sometimes not provided with guidance
on policy direction and even when provided, they do not adhere to the guidelines for the establishment of the national
structures as well as the policy directions of the member states. Hence, there is the need for conformity with
policy directions and guidelines for the establishment of national structures.
2. Budgetary framework: One of the challenges facing the national structures is the budgetary framework. The
national structures are often faced with problems of budgetary allocation as they are not included in the budgetary
framework of member states. This omission constitutes an onerous obstacle to the implementation of the national
structures’ mandates as well as an impediment to the effective discharge of the national structures’ duties vis-à-vis
the mandates of the APRM.
3. Harmonisation of National structures: There are four main areas of work identified for the APRM national structures.
One of them entails sharing best practices amongst member states. After 15 years of implementation of the
objectives of the APRM, there is growing concern that the national structures function in very different ways and
the level of coordination is often not optimal.
4. The organisational structure and assignment of national structures in member states: The state authority under
which the national structure operates is not clearly defined in the APRM guidelines. Of concern is the fact that the
status of national structures and the state authority under which they operate vary from country to country. For
example, while in some countries, the Office of the APRM Focal Point is situated in the Department of Public and
Service Administration, in others it is in the Ministry of Foreign and External Affairs while in some others it is located
in the Ministry of Planning. Sometimes, this impacts on the level of responsiveness and their ability to engage
effectively in the APRM process.
5. Composition of National Structures: The general concern is that the composition of national structures varies substantively
amongst the member states. This is because there is no standard number of persons that may make up
the national structures. Thus, while some national structures have five (5) members, some have up to a hundred
and fifty (150) members.
6. Location and capacity of the APRM National Secretariat: One concern is that the status of the national secretariats
also varies vary substantively amongst the member states as they often operate under different ministries or
departments. In addition, sometimes the APRM National Secretariat reports directly to the Focal Point, and not to
the NGC, which makes it difficult for the NGCs to function in a predictable and optimal manner.
For the APRM National structures to assist in bringing about positive changes in governance, socio-economic development
and management on the continent, these overarching challenges must be surmounted. The following are
1. Need for conformity with policy direction and guidelines: National structures should be provided guidance in
terms of policy direction. They are expected to ensure professionalism, credibility and independence of the APRM
process. It is imperative that these national structures be inclusive, integrated and coordinated in accordance with
the existing policy decision and medium to long term planning processes. The NGC, which is at the heart of the
national structures, must ensure that the APRM process is technical and free from political manipulation. The NGC
is supposed to lead the sensitization programmes countrywide and ensure that all stakeholders participate in the
process to reinforce their ownership thereof. The NGC must have clear written terms of reference for operation in
individual member states. It is recommended that the NGC be involved in the NPOA implementation process.
2. Budgetary allocation: Regarding budgetary allocation vis-à-vis the national structures, it is advisable for the APRM
Member State to ensure that the budget for APRM is independently managed to promote its sustainability. The
country should also endeavor to keep the budget at a minimum level and link the disbursement of funds to outputs
and activities to control the level of spending. Prudent financial planning in the early stages by the NGC to cover
all the activities from inception to completion and periodic accounting for expenses are critical to the success of the
3. Harmonisation of national structures: Considering the need to share best practices and lessons learnt among
APRM member states, it is necessary not only to harmonise national structures and their working practices but
also to highlight best practices to ensure a more substantive impact on the national structures.
4. The organisational structure and assignment of national structures in member states: The organisational structure
and assignment of the national structures are not explicitly stated in the APRM guidelines and supplementary
guidelines for the national structures. This aspect was deliberately omitted in the guidelines for the establishment
of national structures to allow member states to set up their national structures according to their peculiar circumstances.
However, they must still respect and stay within the guidelines for the organisational structure and assignment
of national structures.
5. Composition of national structures in member states: This provision might pose some challenges, as there is no
uniformity amongst member states about the number of persons constituting the national structures, and therefore
this requirement is left to the discretion of member states. It is because every country is distinct and should be
given the foresight to involve the number of major stakeholders the member state deems fit. However, they must
still ensure that they conform to the guidelines ensuring that it is inclusive and participatory.
6. Location and capacity of the APRM National Secretariat: There is no guideline on the location and capacity of the
APRM National Secretariat. However, there is a provision on whom the National Secretariat must report to. Paragraph
IV of the Supplementary Document to APRM Guidelines for Country Review 2016 states that ‘The National
APRM Secretariat provides technical and administrative support to the National Commission/Governing Council
(…) the National secretariat should report directly to the National Governing Council’.
Although, the location and capacity of the APRM National Secretariat is left at the discretion of member states, if this
provision is addressed in conformity with the guidelines for the establishment of APRM national structures, then it
should not pose a challenge.
Regarding the NPOAs, the NGC and the other national structures must ensure that all the challenges outlined in their
self-assessment report are addressed in the NPOA, duly implemented and self-monitored. The NGCs must also ensure
that the NPOA meets all the criteria set out in the guidelines, such as costing, time frames and outputs.
In conclusion, it is therefore necessary to go back to the roots and original vision of the Mechanism by assessing the
role played by national structures over the past years, identify good practices in the organizational structure, size,
composition, financing and legal bases across countries. This would in turn serve the overall vision of a strong and
|Ms Mary Agbebaku-Izobo is a Nigerian and an International Lawyer with an educational background in French, Law, Human Rights
and Democratization in Africa. She has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in French Language and Literature from the University of Ibadan,
Nigeria; Bachelors of Laws (LLB) from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom; a Barrister at Law (BL) from the
Nigerian Law School, Abuja, Nigeria; a Masters of Laws (LLM) in Human Rights and Democratization in Africa from the University
of Pretoria, South Africa and presently, a PhD (Doctor of Laws) candidate at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
She is currently the Legal Officer for the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). Prior to that, she worked with the United
Nations, the African Union Commission, the Pan African Parliament, the Institute for Strategic Litigation in Africa and the Electoral
Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa. She has received various academic awards and won various accolades, one of
which is the Kaduna State Honors Award for public service.