The revitalisation of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is evidence of African governments’ renewed commitment to strengthening good governance, development and democracy in Africa. The APRM will be celebrating its 15th Anniversary on 9 March 2018, after a vibrant revival in 2016-2017, marked by Country Review missions in Chad, Djibouti, Kenya, Senegal, Sudan, Liberia, and the recent Uganda Review Mission in 2017.
At this juncture, it is obvious that sustainable good governance, development and democracy cannot materialise at the continental level without the active participation of the Youth, who make the bulk of the African population. According to the African Union (AU), about 60% of the total population of Africa is below the age of 24 years, and more than 35% of them fall within the 15-35 years bracket, thus making Africa the continent with highest youth population in the world. This demographic dividend constitutes an opportunity for the APRM to bring young people into Africa’s democratisation prospects.
The 28th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union held on 30 January 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, mandated the APRM to track and monitor UN Agenda 2030 and AU Agenda 2063. This extended mandate has come to heighten the young people’s interest in the APRM. Indeed, APRM has responded positively to the AU’s theme and focus - “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth” - by involving a large pool of the youth actively in its daily activities and this trend will further safeguard the Mechanism’s continuity and institutional memory.
It is also noteworthy that the African youth innovation in information technology will secure Africa’s place in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The involvement of young people in ICT will place Africa at the forefront of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, which could play an unprecedented role in moving our societies forward.
More than one-third of the 169 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets highlight the role of young people and the importance of their empowerment, participation, and well-being. On the other hand, AU Agenda 2063: ‘The Africa We Want’ further emphasises the role of the youth in Aspiration 6, which stipulates “An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth”.
The projected lifespan of AU Agenda 2063 automatically makes young people the custodians of this development plan. It is, therefore, against this backdrop that the APRM, as Africa’s leading tool for the advancement and promotion of good governance, should consider upscaling its youth engagement.
Leveraging the synergies between Agenda 2063 and the United Nations SDGs could then be the first step to be taken by the APRM in implementing AU’s theme of harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the African youth.
It is worth recalling that, following the recommendation of President Paul Kagame’s Report on the SDGs, the AU Summit made a key Assembly Decision to give APRM an Expanded Mandate. This provides a golden opportunity and a platform for young people to participate in the APRM processes.
The young people of Africa no longer have to be docile observers of APRM processes. The Expanded Mandate provides them with an opportunity to get involved in and influence the Mechanism’s footprint in civil society and to be part of research organisations and academic institutions.
More importantly, the Strategic Partners of the APRM, such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Mo Ibrahim Foundation and the African Union Commission, can join forces with the APRM to develop flagship programmes aimed at empowering young people and promoting their networks and constructive volunteerism at national and continental levels.
To bring young people on board and ensure that they participate effectively in its processes, APRM should collaborate with organisations such as the Pan-African Youth Union (PYU), AU University institutions and Pan-African Civil Society Organisations working with young people on the ground.
One slot of the APRM Strategy for 2016 – 2020 is aimed at developing new tools and knowledge products to enable the APRM to serve as a think tank on African governance. In this regard, the APRM should consider involving the youth more actively in the post-review outreach activities. In this regard, it is imperative that the APRM adopt the use of digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat, etc. This is because the young people of today are very digitally savvy and can use quick and efficient technological innovations. Indeed, such simple ways of engaging and mobilising young people in the governance sphere will encourage them to go beyond protests and riots to express their frustrations and rather contribute more positively to the national, regional and continental development processes.
As the Mechanism approaches its 15th Anniversary commemoration in 2018, Africa’s Heads of State and Government are encouraged to ratify and fully domesticate the AU Youth Charter. So far, forty-two (42) Member States have signed the AU Youth Charter, thirty-eight (38) Member States have ratified the Charter and three (3) Member States are yet to sign and ratify the instrument. This trend is very encouraging and it proves that the African leaders are committed to developing young people to serve as future custodians of the development of the African continent.
The young people are currently represented in the APRM National Governing Councils (NGCs). However, there is still room for improvement in terms of their engagement. Moreover, as youth issues feature prominently in APRM Country Review Reports, African leaders should prioritise youth-related issues such as access to quality education, health and employment.
African Peer Review Mechanism, the Pan-African tool for promoting good governance, development and democracy, is a vehicle ensuring that the youth constitute an integral component of the processes of constitutionalism, rule of law and democratic governance in Africa. This means that the youth can no longer be excluded from key decisions taken by African leaders, because the young people have a crucial role to play in building and developing the African continent. Frantz Fanon famously wrote, “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it”. Young people should therefore seize the opportunity to participate in Africa’s governance mandate, through the APRM.
The struggle continues, victory is certain!
Written by Steven Gruzd, the Head of the Foreign Policy and Governance Programme at SAIIA and Lennon Monyae is with the APRM Secretariat. This piece was first published in the November 2017 issue of Governance Link, an APRM newsletter.