Africa and The Fight Against Corruption
December 21, 2018 (Ezega.com) - According Transparency International, in 2017, out of the top 20 most corrupt countires in the world, 10 of them are in Africa. The continent has long been saddled with corruption at all levels of society. In some African countries, people have to pay bribes to access basic services like healthcare, schooling, and official records, according to Transparency International. The situation is even worse at the higher level, where contracts are negotiated and awarded, big ticket items are purchased, national assets are sold, etc.
Recently, Africa embraced two crucial agendas: The 2030 agenda and the 2063 agenda. Agenda 2030 is a UN driven shared global vision and commitment to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 world-wide. Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the African continent over the next 50 years. Achieving these goals is no easy feat because they involve heavy financial resources, most of which must be internally sourced.
Africa can’t continue suffering from financial leakages it has become accustomed to in the past via different forms of corrupt practices. Recognizing the fight against corruption as the topmost agenda in Africa is the right step to take, bearing in mind many African governments have failed to address the wide and complex impacts of the vice.
But what will it take for Africa to win the fight against corruption?
It is difficult to answer this question without looking at the goal African leaders set for themselves recently when they met during the AU assembly in January.
In 2003, African heads of states resolved to work towards eradicating corruption after signing a treaty – the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC). This agreement was meant to serve as the driving force to prevent corruption in Africa.
However, this pact has faced resistance from many nations, which is surprising. Why? As Rene Munyamahoro, a renowned professor, puts it; “this convention has yielded poor results due to lack of commitment and implementation so far.” He said.
When addressing a workshop in Kigali, Munyamahoro reiterated how the failure to observe continental norms of governance results in the difficulty to engage national level stakeholders on the same principles at the national level.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa shares similar sentiments. Some African countries have failed to embrace the treaty, others don’t want to ratify it, while others have completely failed to implement what was agreed upon.
Despite more than forty countries embracing the recommendations of the AU, the continent is still riddled with high-level crimes like illegitimate enrichment and money laundering, which is mostly done by high-ranking government officials and multinational corporations.
To put it into perspective, in February, the organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that the continent loses an average of $50 billion annually via illicit engagements. The Wall Street Journal reports that more than $60 billion is stolen from Africa every year.
The apparent lack of development – from Zimbabwe to Libya – happens, in part, due to expensive corruption scandals that scare potential investors and limit further economic progress.
Average individuals and families are also affected. For instance, in sub-Saharan Africa, one in every two citizens pays a bribe for land and property services, which helps stop their homes and land from being taken away.
A Case of Ethiopia and Rwanda
Ethiopia is one of the African countries committed to fighting corruption and arresting corrupt persons. It serves as a role model to other African states as it has adopted a different strategy. Ethiopia is also committed to becoming a corruption free nation by offering ethical and civic education to its younger generation, which is important in that it lays the much-needed foundation among the younger generation to become more principled.
Recently, Rwanda passed a law that prevents and punishes any act of terror financing and money laundering. Rwanda’s government also sanctioned the approval of the Agreement of Accession of Rwanda to the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-money laundering group (ESAAMLG) - a body that seeks to deal with money laundering.
Data from the National Public prosecutor dealing with financial and economic crimes indicate that millions of dollars have been siphoned from Rwanda to other countries.
Though he did not disclose the specific amount, he said that based on investigations, the corrupt elements have stashed money in other African countries, Europe and America. But Rwanda is seeking a return of this monies and it has written to countries like Nigeria, Spain, and Canada.
What can Africa do to curb the menace?
Transparency international recognizes the commitment of the AU member states in the fight against corruption, but much more effort is required to free the continent from the chains of corruption.
If Africa is serious about winning the fight against corruption, then it MUST focus on the following areas:
1. Proper funding
There are many institutions tasked with fighting the vice, but they lack adequate funding and personnel. Funding must match commitment, which is crucial to strengthen the existing anti-corruption agencies and civil societies.
2. AU Treaty Sanction
African member states that are yet to ratify the AU agreements must do so to combat and prevent corruption. While doing so, it is important for African countries to share a common roadmap on the enactment of anti-corruption guiding principle.
3. Independent Investigations
The AU has come under intense scrutiny after one of its top officials resigned citing corruption in the secretariat. Daniel Batidam, who chaired the AU’s Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC) claimed there was no effort being made to fight corruption, which is rooted at the center of the organization. In an interview with the media, Daniel claimed the African Union failed to summon him to elaborate on the corruption issues he highlighted in his resignation letter. In this regard, an independent body should investigate the wrongdoings in the various departments of the AU and those found culpable should be punished under the law.
4. Re-evaluating procurement procedures
African countries should re-assess their individual procurement procedures. If not possible, African leaders should come up with proper guidelines that apply to all its members to ensure ethical practices are followed. Simultaneously, proper practices can be embraced via training and research.
5. Contracts should be made public
This ensures data and documents are available whenever transactions are to be analyzed. African countries should adopt policies that make it possible to record and publicize government transactions. This will help curb the theft of public resources.
6. Asset recovery should be given first priority
African governments should come up with laws that address the proceeds of fraud, money laundering, and criminality. Those who have acquired wealth via dubious means shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy the proceeds of crime.
7. Shell companies
There are many shell companies whose owners are unknown. These entities engage in economic crimes and corrupt dealings and their dirty schemes involving huge funds go unpunished. African countries should come up with public registers that blacklist these individuals. Another alternative is a thorough vetting of bidders before awarding them public contracts.
Taking Rwanda as an example, a new legislation prohibits any financial entity from engaging in business with firms that don’t have a physical presence in the country, or banks operating incognito.
Generally, taking penal actions towards persons accused of corruption is not enough. African countries and governments must work hard to own their citizens, who are tired of corruption.
The disciplinary activities against corrupt individuals and organizations should be thorough, such that it will serve as a lesson to others.
Otherwise, corruption will not only continue snatching our socio-economic facilities, but will also continue undermining the burgeoning democracy in Africa.
By Solomon O. for Ezega News