The African Peer Review Mechanism: Lessons from the Pioneers

Image: Flickr, GovernmentZA
Image: Flickr, GovernmentZA

The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is an innovative approach to improving African governance.

It offers important opportunities for public dialogue but has proved politically and logistically challenging. The first in-depth study of the APRM, this ground-breaking book analyses the evolving peer review process in the first five countries.

The product of a five-year research and training programme, it combines in-depth analysis of the APRM rules with an insightful evaluation of the political and social dynamics. Drawing on extensive interviews across the continent, it offers sounds recommendations to strengthen the process and deepen public participation. An invaluable resource for civil society and governments, this volume includes an interactive APRM Toolkit CD-ROM with the official APRM guidelines, final country reports, survey instruments, academic papers, video testimonials and a comprehensive collection of the governance codes and standards embraced by the APRM.

Now available to download for free, in both English and French.

Le Mécanisme africain d’évaluation par les pairs : Leçons des Pionniers

Several favourable reviews of the book have been produced:

“This book is a penetrating, well researched and thoroughly informed account of the intricacies of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) process. Interstate relations in Africa have taken centre stage in recent years as the continent continues to encounter political, economic and social challenges. The establishment of the APRM has tried to promote conformity and accountability along with acceptable standards of governance. Consequently, this book has come at an opportune moment as there is a dire need to document the objectives, modus operandi and challenges that have faced the African continent against a backdrop of economic stagnation and political disintegration.

The authors provide a balanced account of the APRM experiment, as well as focussing on points of contention. The book portrays peer review as ‘mark[ing] the start of a new kind of African diplomacy’ (viii), which may determine whether NEPAD remains a dream or reality.

The book is divided into five sections. Part one provides a broad overview of the challenges facing the APRM and includes a concise summary of the APRM’s rules and institutions. Part two explores the governance processes at national level, as well as the public consultation and validation options that have been used in the countries presented as case studies, namely Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Mauritius and South Africa. Part three presents an analysis of the politics and discourse of peer review, and the ways in which civil society can influence the process. In this same section the authors outline the prospects of peer review in an increasingly volatile African continent. Part four examines how the peer review has been applied in the five case studies. The book also provides a critique of the crucial role that the South African Institute of International Affairs has played in incorporating civil society into the APRM process. Part five comprises useful appendices: a summary of official guidance documents, the APRM Standards, findings from relevant desk research on the concept of governance, a checklist of civil society and its role in the mechanism process, and successes and lessons drawn from the deliberations and activities of the APRM on the continent. For policy makers the book provides a thought-provoking resource which comes at an opportune time of unprecedented interest in regional and global governance, viewed as crucial to African integration and development strategies. The authors stress the vital importance of peer review as a barometer for gauging democratic practice within African countries. All this is against a backdrop of economic meltdown and political stagnation in African countries bedevilled by corruption, civil wars and unprecedented gross human rights violations in the post-independence era.

Herbert and Gruzd analyse the genesis of the APRM, delving into exactly how the institution came into being. Throughout the book, the authors have sought to illustrate the human and political dynamics that animate the APRM process, in particular the striving for consensus-building. Those political leaders who typically believed that they could preside over societies in perpetuity on their own terms without consulting their citizens in matters of political governance found themselves entangled in a crisis of governance and political legitimacy. This gave rise to the creation the APRM, a forum where African leaders have the opportunity to assess and monitor each other according to the extent to which they are able to abide by the dictates of democracy, human rights, good governance and sound development practices highlighted in the NEPAD initiatives. The book rightly portrays the creation of the APRM as ‘one of the most original concepts emerging from the NEPAD document, especially at a time when the focus of the international community is gradually shifting elsewhere, signifying the unique position of the APRM in development discourse’.

The book examines the involvement of and active participation of civil society organisations in the APRM process in an attempt to make it viable and credible. The authors present a platform where the mechanism provides an opportunity for civil society and government to make a concerted and collective effort to achieve the desired objectives of improving governance institutions.

There are significant, instructive lessons that readers can draw from the book, lessons that can help enhance an understanding of processes, procedures and rules to help enable government and civil society to make the most of the opportunity presented by peer review and monitoring. The authors further see the APRM process as being able to improve the quality of ‘governance in all areas of activity, including better delivery to meet the valid and growing demand … for a shared acceleration and more effective development’.

It can be agreed that the authors ‘have clearly and concisely articulated the main themes of the APRM process’. This work will most likely attract the attention of scholars and policy makers, especially those whose research interests include African regional integration and security. The publication could well have an influence on policy, the promotion of human rights, as well as governance and accountability among politicians.”
Jephias Mapuva, School of Government, University of the Western Cape, South Africa. Taylor & Francis, Reader Review, August 2011.

« La traduction française de « The APRM : Lessons from the Pioneers » répond a un besoin urgent en Afrique francophone pour le partage d’expériences et d’informations concernant le processus du MAEP. Alors que les activités florissantes de réseautage entre pays anglophones ayant accédé au MAEP ont donné naissance a un riche ‘laboratoire d’apprentissage’, l’équivalant n’existe pas encore, en Afrique francophone. Les « Leçons des Pionniers » de Ross Herbert & Steven Gruzd, SAIIA représentent donc pour la francophonie africaine une précieuse fenêtre sur les enseignements tirés des expériences du MAEP, et donc un jalon important vers le renforcement de la communauté francophone du MAEP. Un récent atelier de préparation au MAEP tenu a Djibouti (janvier 2010), avec l’appui du PNUD et de SAIIA, a permis de confirmer l’attrait que représente ce guide pour les nouveaux adhérents francophones, tel que Djibouti, qui peinent a trouver des réponses a leurs questions. Le récit des expériences des pionniers, les conseils qui sont formulés sur la base des leçons tirées de ces expériences, et le vaste éventail d’outils et de ressources mises a la disposition des lecteurs représentent une mine d’or d’information pour toutes les parties prenantes. Il reste a espérer que la seconde édition des « Leçons des Pionniers » sera dédiée a la revue des expériences des pays francophones du MAEP, afin de renforcer ce riche dialogue panafricain que SAIIA facilite avec brio, via cette publication séminale. »
— Marie Laberge, UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre

“The French translation of The APRM: Lessons from the Pioneers’ meets an urgent need in Francophone Africa to share experiences and information on the APRM process. While the flourishing business of networking among English speaking countries acceded to the APRM has spawned a rich ‘learning lab’, the equivalent does not yet exist in Francophone Africa. This book by Ross Herbert & Steven Gruzd, SAIIA thus opens for French-Speaking Africa a valuable window on the lessons learned from the experiences of the APRM. It is therefore an important step towards strengthening the Francophone community of the APRM. A recent workshop in preparation for APRM held in Djibouti (in January 2010), with support from UNDP and SAIIA, confirmed the attractiveness of this guidebook for new APRM states like Djibouti, which was struggling to find answers to their questions. The story of the pioneers’ experiences, the advice formulated from lessons learned and the wide range of tools and resources made available to readers represents a goldmine of information for all stakeholders. It is hoped that the second edition of Lessons from the Pioneers will be dedicated to reviewing the experiences of French-speaking countries of the APRM, to enhance the rich dialogue that SAIIA facilitates brilliantly through this seminal publication.”
— Marie Laberge, UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre

The African Peer Review Mechanism: Lessons from the Pioneers” by Ross Hebert and Steven Gruzd is a remarkable resource for those serious about making the APRM work … The study is candid about the shortcomings of the APRM while offering practical and implementable suggestions to make the process efficient and effective … The study makes it clear that the APRM requires revisions both in terms of process and substance. Given the magnitude of the suggested changes it is urgent that the APRM Secretariat has the necessary capacity to respond to the suggestions made. It will be a real pity if this study became just another APRM study without the recommendations being translated into concrete APRM reforms.”
— Ozias Tungwarara, Director, African Governance and Monitoring Programme (Africa Governance and Monitoring Program (AfriMAP), Open Society Initiative for Southern African (OSISA), in Global Dialogue, Volume 14.1, July 2009

South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) has published The African Peer Review Mechanism: Lessons from the Pioneers. This is both an analytical study of the APRM (in pioneer countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Mauritius and South Africa) and a compendium of resources for APRM implementation. It is the most complete resource available on the APRM and as such should be made available to all stakeholders involved in the APRM process. Civil society organizations in particular will benefit from the insights provided in the detailed and frank discussion on the difficulties and challenges faced by civil society during the implementation of the APRM in different countries. The 400-page book also includes a DVD with a wide variety of material related to the APRM, in English and French. “
— Partnership Africa-Canada, APRM Monitor, Number 7, June 2009,

“Ross Herbert and Steven Gruzd’s new book is the first in-depth study of the mechanism with analysis of the evolving peer review process in the first five countries … Publication is well timed as new members of the panel are to be appointed soon and they could benefit from the lessons highlighted … Thank goodness that the South African Institute of International Affairs is closely following the African Peer Review Mechanism.”
— Alex Vines, head of Chatham House’s Africa Programme, review in The World Today, Vol 64, No 7, July 2008

“Based solely on the importance of the APRM process and increasing relevance to people on the continent … this volume is worth reading. However, Herbert & Gruzd have also produced a resource which balances the need for academic rigour and technical proficiency with the ease-of-use style that is characteristic of so many of SAIIA’s publications. Interspersing the narrative of an unfolding and evolving APRM process with precise and often compelling analysis, the authors reflect a clear understanding of the issues involved as well as a profound respect for the APRM as an institution and process. … To both present a coherent and informed picture of the APRM, both as process and institution; in countries which were quite literally making up the rules as they went along; and at local, national and continental levels simultaneously is an achievement all by itself … The APRM has emerged at a critical juncture in Africa’s governance history, and it is only through more and better analysis and engagement from a multitude of stakeholders that the mechanism can move forward, This book may be the first step on that path.”
— Grant Masterson, Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA), review in the South African Journal of International Affairs, Volume 15, No. 2, December 2008, pp. 233-236. Shorter version due to be published in EISA’s Journal of African Elections in October 2008.

Additional Review

Part 0 – Table of Contents, Foreword, Introduction

Includes acknowledgements, Foreword by Professor SKB Asante, member of Ghana’s APRM Governing Council and the Introduction

Part I – The Basic Stages and Structures


  • Chapter 1: Perspectives on an Extraordinary Experiment
  • Chapter 2: Rules, Processes and Institutions

Part II – National Leadership and Research

  • Chapter 3: Governance of the National Process
  • Chapter 4: The Questionnaire and its Implications for Research
  • Chapter 5: Research, Consultation and Report Writing
  • Chapter 5: Developing the Programme of Action

Part III – Lessons and Recommendations from the Pioneers


  • Chapter 7: The APRM as a Political Process
  • Chapter 8: The Keys to Civil Society Influence
  • Chapter 9: The Way Forward

Part IV – Country Case Studies


  • Chapter 10: Ghana
  • Chapter 11: Rwanda
  • Chapter 12: Kenya
  • Chapter 13: Mauritius
  • Chapter 14: South Africa

Part V – Appendices, Recommended Reading, Index


  • Appendix A: Summary of Official Guidance Documents
  • Appendix B: The APRM Standards by Thematic Area
  • Appendix C: Useful Sources for Desk Research on Governance
  • Appendix D: What to Ask For – A Civil Society Checklist
  • Appendix E: 80 Lessons for Success
  • Recommended Reading
  • Index