March 2013 marks ten years of one of the most innovative initiatives established under the auspices of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Created in 2003, the main objective of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is to foster the adoption of standard practices for political stability, sustainable development and economic integration through experience sharing between member states. As a voluntary process open to all members of the African Union, the steps of the APRM process include a country self-assessment, a review mission by the APRM Panel of Eminent Persons, a review of the ensuing Panel report by APRM Member States, and a finalized programme of action (NPoA) – the blueprint for development agreed upon by all stakeholders. These NPoAs are critical to identifying development challenges, and laying the foundation for legal and policy changes.
As of January 2013, the APRM boasts a membership of 35 States, with Tunisia and Chad as the newest members. Yet, the APRM has been plagued by financial and logistical challenges, stalled peer reviews and an occasionally negative public perception. In this piece, I highlight how a holistic approach to critiquing the APRM sheds light on some of the positive contributions the mechanism has made to development in Africa, and also illuminates the path for the next ten years.