A conference to discuss the role of the African Peer Review Mechanism, APRM, in moving Africa forward has ended in Accra, Ghana. Joana Mantey reports that delegates from 23 African countries reinforced their commitment to the initiative as a means of promoting good governance and socio economic development on the continent. 

The African peer Review Mechanism, APRM, is a voluntary review process under the New Partnership for Africa?s Development, NEPAD, with the objective of promoting good governance in Africa. The meeting was called to examine the progress of the APRM and to encourage all African countries to participate in the peer review process. So far, 26 African states have agreed to have their economic and political policies reviewed by an APRM panel.

Ghana, Rwanda and Kenya have been reviewed with South Africa and Algeria due to be examined in July. Dr. Francis Appiah is the Executive Secretary of Ghana's National APRM Governing Council. 

?Here you are with Ghana fairly stable going through the process. Rwanda, a country that has gone through genocide subjecting itself to the process; Kenya, a country that has just had a change from a long one-party state going through the process. The lesson is that no African country can have an excuse for not acceding to the process,? he said.

Dr Appiah said the review is voluntary and covers areas such as the performance of parliament, and the protection of human and women?s rights.

He said in Ghana for example the APRM helped prompt the parliament passed a bill protecting those with disabilities, and a bill protecting women from domestic violence. The review also uncovered performance problems in some ministries, and also led to public debate over the limits of Supreme Court judges.  The peer review can make suggestions, but it has no mandate to enforce them.  Sometimes, problems revealed by the peer review can add to public pressure for reforms.

Yet critics say the pace of adoption of the APRM has been slow.  Indeed 28 other countries are yet to agree to participate in the review.. Dr. Appiah is however convinced that progress made is commendable considering the history of the continent.

?What the critics forget," he said, " is that we are talking about a complete change in the way we conduct affairs in Africa. And in Africa where habits of bad governance, dictatorship, lack of human rights, corruption, have been ingrained, having decided to make a break will certainly take time. Even the very admission that Africa needs to adopt a new approach in itself is revolutionary and we must be patient to see the fruit of this new order.?

Delegates at the conference called for more steps to deepen good governance in Africa.  They said it is important that the independence of the APRM process be maintained in order to preserve its credibility as an African owned tool for good governance. The delegates further encouraged many African countries to adopt the APRM.

The Chairman of the national APRM Governing Council Professor Kwesi Adjepong said the APRM is helpful in many respects.  He said countries that have opened themselves up for review by their peers are more likely to attract investment.

The outcome of the conference will serve as basis for dialogue on Africa?s partnership with G8 industrialized countries. It will also serve in forging a common African position ahead of the Africa partnership forum on May 24 in Berlin.  The forum ? which is a meeting between G8 Heads and African leaders ? is meant to monitor the implementation of some commitments made by G8 countries in support of Africa?s development.