A new Commission of the African Union (AU) has just assumed office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It will have Africa’s pressing challenges on its table for urgent attention. The conflict in Somalia and other parts of our continent will top the list of priorities calling for African solutions to African problems.
Their four years in office will undoubtedly build on what has been achieved since 2002 when the AU was born out of the Organisation of African Unity. One thing is clear though – the African of today is markedly and fundamentally different from that of the 1980s.
It used to be difficult in Africa to discuss governance, but now we no longer view governance as an externally imposed agenda, but rather as an essential ingredient to claiming the African century.
Even though it’s no longer in dispute that peace and security, development and good governance are interlinked in a dialectical way, we also admit that governance is at the centre of our security and developmental challenges. Its absence is a root cause of almost all the conflicts on the continent and accounts for the inhibition of our development in many areas. It has a triple significance to the African predicament: as a root cause to our problems, a bottleneck to unleashing the continent’s potential and as a precondition that is necessary to “silencing the guns” by 2020.
It is for this reason that at its January 2017 Assembly of Heads of State and Government, the AU expanded the mandate of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), giving this body the task of monitoring the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, this assembly resolved to strengthen the APRM to enable it to track governance issues on our continent.
The strength of the APRM as the continent’s regional governance agency is in its methodology whereby countries, through the APRM National Structures, assess themselves in the areas of political, economic, social and corporate governance.
APRM country reports are produced by the countries themselves through a self-assessment exercise.
The APRM will have to carry out its new mandate by focusing on the notion of transformative leadership which is at the centre of both Agenda 2063 and the SDGs.
No matter how noble these two plans for Africa’s future are, their targets will remain a pipe dream if we do not have a leadership in place that is prepared, with strong political will, to implement them, working together with their people. It is known that Africa’s challenges are not due to a lack of good ideas, resolutions or policies, but rather in the implementation of what we know to be good for our continent. Therefore, leadership is at the centre. But the leadership we require must be of a certain calibre, ready to act to transform the socioeconomic landscape of our continent.
Its effectiveness must be measured by the transformative impact of its interventions in society.
Our states must be developmental in their orientation, anchored on strong and capable institutions at country level.
However, good governance is not an end in itself – the people are the reason why we have governments in the first place.
A transformative leadership has to have this thinking as its point of departure – delivering services, promoting an open society and accountability, and involving the people in state matters in a transparent way.
The good news is that we are almost there, thanks to the Pan-African foundation of the African post-colonial state which was conceived as interventionist, developmental and people oriented. We all remember Kwame Nkrumah’s famous saying that “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all things shall be added unto you” – which saw political freedom as a stepping stone towards the transformation of our continent.
Nkrumah’s vision could not materialise because, not long after coming to power in his country, Ghana, he was toppled in a coup d’état – a phenomenon that would dominate Africa’s politics in the 1970s and 1980s.
The post-colonial state which was supposed to be an instrument of liberation, development and unity, became predatory, repressive and self-serving.
It is our leaders themselves who put an end to this in the 1990s when they adopted a strong stance that rejected any leader who came to power through unconstitutional means.
These early steps would culminate in a package of AU policies, the “shared values” doctrine, which brought into being the African Governance Architecture whose components include the APRM.
Human rights, democracy, the rule of law and good governance are now taken for granted as our shared values.
The new Commission of the AU will build on these values to bring into being a transformative leadership that is envisaged in Agenda 2063.
The APRM, with its newly acquired mandate, will have to develop a toolkit for AU member states, which can be used to track progress, identify gaps and what needs to be done at country level.
The first 10-year implementation plan of Agenda 2063 has identified a set of transformational outcomes under its governance leg, which include the following:
Democratic values and culture as enshrined in the African Governance Architecture would have been entrenched by 2023;
At least seven out of 10 persons in every member state of the union will perceive elections to be free, fair and credible; democratic institutions, processes and leaders accountable; the judiciary impartial and independent; and the legislature independent and a key component of the national governance process; and
– The APRM will have been subscribed to by all member states and its positive impact on governance metrics felt. This is undoubtedly achievable!
Eddy Maloka is the CEO of the African Peer Review Mechanism