Assessing the Implications of the APRM's Expanded Mandate

The core mandate of the AU’s African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) – initiated in 2002 and established in 2003 – is ‘to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices leading to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated regional and continental economic integration’. While the Expanded Mandate and the leadership’s turnaround strategy can be credited with the momentum, renewed energy and interest the APRM has enjoyed from member states, civil society organisations and development partners on the continent (and beyond), some contend that it has also distracted the APRM from its core focus. This paper reflects on the implications of this Expanded Mandate as it currently stands (ie, decisions taken between 2016 and 2019). It also explores some of the opportunities and challenges it has created for the APRM, the impact of COVID-19 on its implementation and, finally, how institutional changes within the APRM Continental Secretariat could influence its future. The Expanded Mandate has created an opportunity for the APRM to tackle some of the challenges that come with its voluntary nature. With innovative instruments such as targeted reviews, countries that were not necessarily keen on full reviews or that may have faced challenges in conducting full reviews are still able to participate by opting to scrutinise specific areas of concern. For instance, Djibouti, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zambia have conducted targeted reviews. In repositioning the APRM to also monitor progress against the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries that are not APRM members can also benefit from technical workshops. The intervention areas pursued in response to the Expanded Mandate have generated renewed momentum and interest from countries and development partners on the continent and globally. The question must be asked, however: are the priorities and projects that this period of renewal, reinvigoration and restoration has produced sustainable, and do they add significant value to the intent of the APRM? In short, the APRM has an opportunity to harness the energy created by Expanded Mandate projects to sharpen its focus; retain relevance to member states (beyond the political sphere to meet the expectations from citizens); and ensure institutional stability. In order to do this the building that has taken place over the past years needs to be consolidated. This means rationalising actions and, importantly, focusing on those that will have a direct influence or positive impact on member states’ ability to actualise the recommendations in reviews.