By Fiona Wakelin
In his first letter to the nation for the month of February, His Excellency, Cyril Ramaphosa focused on South Africa’s two-year chairship of the African Peer Review Forum – which came to an end recently during the 35th African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government.
“The Forum is one of the structures of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), which aims to promote and protect human rights, consolidate democracy and advance good governance and the rule of law among African countries.
“Of the African Union’s 55 member states, 42 are now members of the APRM. In the last two months, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi became the most recent countries to join the mechanism. Efforts are underway to encourage all remaining AU member states to join by the end of this decade.
“The APRM encourages best practice for political, social and economic stability, while helping to address governance deficiencies by providing a National Programme of Action for each state concerned,” H.E. Ramaphosa
Membership of the APRM is voluntary – and by joining, states agree to independently review their compliance with continental and international governance commitments.
Nineteen years ago South Africa was one of the first countries to become a member of the APRM and we have undergone two assessments since then – the most recent being conducted in 2021, where we were assessed on democratic and political governance, economic management, corporate governance, socio-economic development and state resilience – for which we received favourable reviews. Particular mention was made of the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the APRM Review Mission commended South Africa for publicising its detection of the Omicron variant late last year, “despite the risks to its economy”.
There were also several areas of concern, which included rising inequality and unemployment, corruption, incidents of xenophobia and poor service delivery. The Mission recommended that the government develop a barometer to measure inequality and tools to measure the efficacy of transformative programmes such as broad-based black economic empowerment, employment equity and land reform.
“As a country, we are taking these recommendations on board and exploring areas of alignment between the APRM National Programme of Action and the work of our National Planning Commission.
“It is greatly encouraging that despite pockets of instability, we have come a long way in consolidating democracy and good governance on the continent.
“The Africa Governance Report 2021, which South Africa presented to the AU Assembly over the weekend, noted progress in consolidating democracy and moving towards economic integration through the African Continental Free Trade Area. At the same time, it recommended that leaders take urgent steps to address drivers of instability, such as growing youth unemployment, extremism, mass migration and deepening inequality,” – President Ramaphosa
Although the APRM is not a punitive body, the African Union has taken decisive action regarding countries whose actions undermine the principles of the AU Charter and the AU’s Agenda 2063: after the 3 coups last year in Mali, Guinea and Sudan, membership of the AU was suspended; as was Burkina Faso’s membership following a coup in late January.
“Just as South Africa’s fortunes are inextricably tied to those of the continent, we are also inevitably affected by political, economic and other forms of instability in Africa. This makes our participation in the African Peer Review Mechanism all the more critical.
“We share a responsibility, alongside our sister countries, to strengthen good governance in Africa. After all, good governance brings investment, development, peace, progress and, ultimately, shared prosperity,” – President Ramaphosa