The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) concluded its two-day annual methodology forum Friday in Sharm El-Sheikh, offering ideas for enhancing the work done by the African Union (AU) body.
More than 150 people attended the forum in the Red Sea city.
The list included representatives of APRM, representatives of the AU Commission and governance experts from institutions that partner with the APRM in research projects.
The list of attendees also included Egyptian government officials, parliamentarians, academics, university students and journalists.
The APRM is a specialised agency of the African Union that focuses on good governance in Africa.
The forum did not offer a final communique. A set of recommendations will be provided in the forum’s final report that will be issued in the coming weeks. But the discussions that took place on Thursday and Friday clarified the priorities of the AU agency in the coming years.
For example, academics from across the African continent and APRM officials suggested the creation of university programmes, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, to train students to conduct research on governance in a manner that will be useful to the technical work conducted by continental institutions such as the AU.
As the APRM depends on a questionnaire as its key tool for research on governance in Africa, another discussion involved whether the same set of questions can be directed to all states, as not all African states have the same socio-political and economic challenges.
In July 2002, the process towards founding the APRM started with the Declaration on the Implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, adopted by the inaugural session of the assembly of the African Union in Durban, South Africa.
The declaration "establishes the APRM as a country-self assessment and peer review mechanism, conceived and led by Africans to undertake governance assessments.”
Those assessments involve areas of democracy and political governance, economic governance, corporate governance and sustainable socio-economic development.
The forum also touched on gender and governance in Africa, specifically the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development’s framework for gender reviews and a framework for gender sensitive budgeting, as the two frameworks will be under consideration in reviewing a proposal to bring a gender component to the APRM instrument.
Moreover, the APRM community tackled the possibility of integrating migration, refugees, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in APRM reviews, studies on credit rating agencies (CRAs) in Africa from the perspective of state banking, and the application of future studies to governance in the framework of Agenda 2063 and a general approach to futures studies and governance in Africa.
Speaking to Ahram Online, Khaled Emara — aide to Egypt’s foreign minister — said Egypt is currently preparing its own self- assessment report that will be submitted to APRM, stating that Egypt is “one of the founding states” of APRM since its establishment in 2003.
Emara said that the APRM was created to facilitate the “exchange of expertise on political, economic, social and corporate governance in Africa on state and presidential levels, which the African leaders found pivotal and important for pushing the developmental agenda of the continent forward.”
Emara explained that the Egyptian process of self-assessment — in which “all sector of society are involved” — will take time and effort as the country is huge in terms of its population, adding that “research centres with domestic, regional and international weight” are participating in the review, such as those affiliated with Cairo University, Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies and the National Planning Institute.
A national committee was also formed to handle the process, noted Emara, adding that the questionnaire process will be handled electronically.
The high-ranking diplomat said Egypt has important contributions to make in relation to restructuring how APRM functions and the competency of APRM programmes for member states.
He explained that Egypt pushed for budget changes in APRM, which will allocate 70 percent to research programmes and 30 percent to “running costs,” such as salaries, as opposed to a 50-50 distribution system currently used.
“By 2021 or 2022, we will most likely reach this stage. Egypt said that the 50-50 budgeting process should change, for APRM — which is based in South Africa — should focus on serving member states through backing programmes of expertise transfer and consulting services," Emara stated.
Meanwhile, he said another Egyptian initiative was welcomed, which involves turning the APRM into a non-paper-based, electronic institution that uses digital means to execute its tasks, for “large numbers of African youths who cover more than 60 percent of the continent’s overall population depend on digital means in their lives.”
For Egypt, asserted Emara, there is a political willingness through its president, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, and the government to work with Africa and make the APRM an effective institution.
Believing that the APRM aims to support the objective of African integration, Emara said that it helps member states to revisit their internal affairs and find ways through which the continent can jointly address the challenges it is facing.
He referred to the example of the new African free trade agreement that will implemented this year and will pave the way for trade, movement of goods, and the introduction of services across the continent.
“There are also other plans for facilitating the movement of people and management of airspaces in Africa, and they all represent large-scale plans that African states hope to achieve in the future.”
The APRM forum came in light of the unanimous election of Egypt as the chair of the AU in 2019 during the AU summit in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa in January 2018.
Egypt has never before been elected head of the AU.
The AU was created in 2002 following the disbanding of the Organisation of African Unity, counts all 55 African countries as members, and holds an annual summit in Ethiopia.