Political Science Project Topics

An Appraisal on the Impact of the African Union in Promoting Good Political Governance in Africa

An Appraisal on the Impact of the African Union in Promoting Good Political Governance in Africa

An Appraisal on the Impact of the African Union in Promoting Good Political Governance in Africa

Chapter One

Objectives of the study

The main objective of the study is to appraise the impact of African union in promoting good political governance in Africa. Specifically, the study seek to:

  1. examine the role of African Union (AU) in enhancing good governance;
  2. determine the capacity of the APRM to address political governance problems and infuse good governance practices in Africa;
  3. identify the factors that constrain the effectiveness of the APRM; and
  4. proffer recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of the APRM.



The Concept of Governance

The concept of governance is traditionally linked to ruling and control, specifically the manner of exercise of power. Governance refers to the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. “Good governance” has the following major components: legitimacy, whereby the government has the consent of the governed; accountability that ensures transparency and answerability for actions; respect for law and protection of human rights; and competence, which consists of effective policy making, policy implementation and service delivery.

 Concept of African Union

The establishment of the AU represented a shift from the way the OAU was organized and carried out its work. Nowhere has the AU more evidently demonstrated this clear break from the mode of operation of the OAU than in the areas of institution-building, peace and security, establishment of normative frameworks, and crafting of economic programs to integrate the continent.

African Union was launched in Durban on July 9, 2002 by its first President Thambo Mbeki. It is a product or a successor of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). O.A.U. was a regional organization of African States. It was the initial effort of Africans to use a collective force and understanding to free themselves from colonial rule, cum self determination, create a common forum for Africans to interact among themselves and seek Africans solution to African problems. O.A.U. was a successful regional organization whose goal were readily met even, their liberation struggles and campaign against apartheid policy was very successful.

Having achieved some of her major objectives, with the dismantling of bi-polarism, and the unavoidable forces of globalization, coupled with the challenges of nationhood and peace, there was great need for African leaders to re-kindle their desire for African integration and restrategize her world view and her role in the international state system. Moreso, Africa is one of the most under developed continent in the world, her economy, research and developments. ICT and military preparedness are very weak. A new vision will be a strong force to re-kindle African vision of integration. African vision has to transcend the level of self-determination and poor governance to a new consciousness of threat to the sustainability of sovereignty, political power; development and security in our states. There is great need to broaden African co-operation and integration for a grater African approach to African problems.

The vision of integration will enable Africans to be more competitive in their international relation, and influence in the international community. The challenge of Africa to secure her democracies, human rights and a sustainable economy, especially by bringing to an end inter-African conflict,  and creating an effective common market (Thom-Otuya, 2011).

The New vision of Africa is challenged to transform most of her raw materials endowed to her by nature, to finished products. Her integration in science and research need to be reinforced to facilitate African technology. Our ability to create and sustain our economy must be hinged on local breed technologies, our creative thoughts and our research consciousness. The first world depends on African continent‘s raw material to create, manufacture and maintain her technological empire. African countries are challenged by not being equipped scientifically to explore their national resources within her territorial jurisdiction. This is the ―inescapability‖ of Africa from foreign dominance, because we need the western technologies to identify the wealth in our soil and ocean.

African union is challenged with her ability to cope with the forces of globalization and her Impact on national sovereignty and threat to local investors. African Union tend to reform her policies to allow integration of inter-government agencies and centralization of national interest through policies integration.




Concept of democracy and democracy in Africa

Democracy is undoubtedly the most discussed and contested notion of political theory (Hoffman 1988, 31). It is still highly contested in analytical and ideological discourse (Wiseman 1996, 7–8). Nwabueze (1973) pointed out that ‘No word is more susceptible of a variety of tendentious interpretations than democracy’ (1). There is a widespread agreement that democracy is ‘a good thing’. The term ‘democratic’ almost inevitably connotes praise, while ‘undemocratic’ implies censure (Wiseman 1990, 4). Many governments tend to describe themselves as democratic. In some cases, the term has even been incorporated into the official name of the state although in most cases where this happened the states concerned appeared significantly undemocratic (Wiseman 1990, 4). Even authoritarian leaders have claimed to be democrats and proclaimed their faith in ‘democracy’ (Mangu 2002, 277–282). Democracy has existed throughout centuries and ages surrounded by all these paradoxes (Ronen 1986a, 1, 35; Mangu 2002, 277– 282). Defining it remains a challenge (Ronen 1986a, 1).

Depending on the scope of democracy, two major conceptions of democracy have been identified, namely the minimalist and maximalist conceptions (Mangu 2002, 176, 2007, 358; Wiseman 1996, 7–14).

Minimalist conceptions of democracy were informed by the two ideologies that dominated the contemporary world, namely liberalism or capitalism and socialism or communism. Democracy is defined as a specific political machinery of institutions, processes, and roles (Ronen 1986b, 200). The notion of institutional democracy is of the sort found in Robert Dahl’s concept of polyarchy. According to Dahl, polyarchy in a political order is characterised by seven institutions, all of which must be present. These are elected officials, free and fair elections, inclusive suffrage, and right to run for office, freedom of expression, alternative information, and associational autonomy (Dahl 1971, 1989, 220–224; Sorensen 1996, 42; Wiseman 1996, 8). Polyarchy is distinguished by two broad characteristics. Citizenship is extended to a relatively high proportion of adults, and citizens are entitled to oppose and vote out the highest officials in government (Dahl 1989, 220–224; Wiseman 1996, 8). According to Sorensen (1996, 42), Dahl’s notion of polyarchy has three elements: competition for government power; political participation in the selection of leaders and policies; and civil and political rights (Sorensen 1996, 42). Sandbrook (1996) defined democracy as:



The AU/NEPAD Peer Review Mechanism and the Democratization Process in Africa

The mandate of APRM is to ensure that the policies and practices of participating states conform to the agreed political, economic, and corporate governance values, codes, and standards.

Its primary purpose is to encourage and build responsible leadership through a self-assessment process and constructive peer-dialogue, to foster the adoption of policies, standards, and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through sharing of experiences, and the reinforcement of successful and best practices, including deficiencies and assessing the capacity-building needs of participating countries.

The APRM is under the leadership of the Committee of Participating Heads of State and Government (APR Forum). The overall responsibility of the APRM falls on the Panel of Eminent Persons (APR Panel) who should be recognised and competent experts in one of the four APRM thematic areas. They should demonstrate a commitment to the ideal of pan-Africanism and are appointed by the APR Forum.




The failure of the OAU and previous development programmes to improve the standard of governance in Africa has placed high expectations on the AU and NEPAD. Although the relation between the two agendas remains somewhat confusing, NEPAD is generally seen as home-grown. The AU, which succeeded the OAU seeks to address the challenges facing post-cold war Africa as well as chart new directions in the continent’s domestic politics and international relations. As noted, NEPAD is said to represent a “new” development agenda based on partnership with creditor countries. It embodies conditions of good governance and sound macro-economic policies to be met by Africa as prerequisites for benefiting from the “enhanced partnership” established by the leading creditor countries. NEPAD seeks to reverse Africa’s developmental malaise through the institution of good governance practices and aid from the north. A key instrument for the promotion of good governance is the APR, which ideally should provide a framework for reprimanding governments that persist in practices inimical to democracy and development.

However, the study has sought to demonstrate the contradictions in NEPAD and the limitations in the APR as instruments of good governance. NEPAD in particular still remains a suspicious and controversial project, especially because its formulation evaded debates and consultations in Africa. And, because the formulation of NEPAD excluded African social groups, it is suspected of being externally-driven and a reincarnation of SAP. Furthermore, the prevalence of informal relations underlying African politics may emasculate the potency of NEPAD. Similarly, the AU, the political framework for NEPAD, may itself be ineffective since it lacks clear differences from the OAU. Besides, the AU seems to bite more than it can chew. The ambition to achieve continental integration within a short time, something the EU achieved in 40 years, may weigh down adversely on the nascent organisation.

In the same way, the APR is truncated in its ability to generate good governance. As argued, the APR is not new since aspects of it have at various times been thrust on Africa. Besides, membership in the APR is voluntary and certain to keep Africa’s notorious dictators out. Added to this, African leaders have already begun a process of manipulating the APR by not only redefining what it can or cannot do, but also defining the concept of good governance in ways that diverge from conventional wisdom. These factors, along with the natural tendency for African leaders to condone and support, rather than condemn and oppose peers in clear instances of misgovernance, combine to mitigate hopes of the APR precipitating good governance.

African renaissance is not possible without respect for democracy and good political governance that feature prominently in the AU and NEPAD instruments and constitute the first APRM thematic area. Many challenges confront the APRM but these challenges or obstacles are not insurmountable.


The responsibility of developing a virile Africa is a task that must be done. The AU as a child of necessity is timely in its content and organization. It becomes imperative therefore for African leaders and nation-States to operate a continent that will be an envy of the outside world. Africa and its people deserve the best of all internationally accepted standard of behavior to help her grow to greater heights. African nations therefore here a responsibility to make the continent work so that its people can find a pride of place in the continent called ‘their own.’ This onerous task must be done here and now so that our collective aspirations and expectations will be realized in this millennium against all contrary misdemeanours.


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