The Problem of Corruption in Africa and the Need to Tackle It


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The World Bank Group considers corruption a major challenge to its twin goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity for the poorest 40 percent of people in developing countries. Reducing corruption is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals and achieving the ambitious targets set in the United Nations Agenda 2063. The UN agenda has been formally adopted by the African Union as the Agenda 2063. This year’s unique theme for the African Union is “Winning the fight against corruption. A sustainable path for Africa’s transformation”. This is an important moment for Africa to take stock of the current situation and to conduct a reality check. As a continent we are at an important crossroad. A juncture which can redefine the future of the continent, to leap into development or forever be left behind. According to the Corruption Index 2018 seven African countries are in the bottom ten. It is not a coincidence that eight African countries are in the bottom ten of the United Nation’s Human Development Index 2018. Corruption has far reaching implications on the economic, social and political development.

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It is clear that corruption has continued to stifle development in Africa. The current infrastructural, inequality and poverty levels are a direct consequence of a corrupt ridden society. A society where corruption has been tolerated to flower and blossom. However, unlike cancer corruption is not an incurable disease. Practical solutions exist to combat the phenomena. The first line of defense against corruption is democracy. According to Abraham Lincoln it is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. Corruption is much more to flourish in monocentric political systems where democratic institutions are weak. In the majority of African countries democracy and democratic institutions only exist by name. In democratic societies there is a legislature, a judiciary and the executive. The legislature and the executive should be elected under a one man one vote universal suffrage system. The police, prison and the prosecution authorities should be independent from any external interference whatsoever.

The judiciary should be independent, transparent, impartial and well-resourced to handle corruption cases. These levers of democracy should act as checks and balances to prevent a situation where an individual or institution holds and projects too much power. They should exist in every African country to limit individual influences within the corridors of power. Good governance and transparency should be the hallmark of every African government. However, to date incidences of corruption have stemmed from governments procurement programs which are done either in absolute secrecy or in unverifiable circumstances. In a central government political system bureaucratic layers exist and these exacerbates the incidences of corruption.

Good governance is the foundation for rule of law. This refers to the extent to which individual behavior is regulated by law. No one should be above the law and there should be no sacred cows. Every citizen should behave according to the letter and spirit of the law. There should be state patronages all citizens should be treated equal and not be discriminated along gender, ethnic, racial or political grounds. State patronage increase the incidences of corruption. As one subset of the population has access to resources, the other subset will have to oil the machine of corruption through bribes. Monocentric systems create extractive societies where one subset of the population benefits at the expense of the populace. This reduces the trickle-down effect. Devolution of power improves transparency on resource exploitation. It is a catalyst for grassroots participation.

Strong anti-corruption efforts should be implemented. Anti-corruption institutions should be well resourced and independent. Anti-corruption commissioners should be appointed by the public through referendums. This should be backed by a strong political will. Current governance institutions should be dissolved. In the continent, current governance institutions are “vintage” organizations modelled in the colonial era to serve the interest of the colonial masters. These institutions founded on a purely repressive foundation have outlived their mandate and are no longer relevant for the unique challenges posed by the 21st century. Newer contemporary institutions modeled along Africa’s developmental goals should be set up. As corruption is a regional problem, it requires regional solutions. Regional organization’s such as the African Union should have an arm specifically established and modelled to combat corruption within the continent. Resolutions should be adopted on high level forums such as the African Union heads of states meetings to combat corruption.

Think tanks should be established. These institutions are critical for the development of a nation. Countries such as the United States, Britain and recently China have a high number of think tanks. Think tanks conduct research and offer advisory services to the government and other economic units. They consist of academia and captains of industry and produce white papers on critical contemporary issues such as corruption and economic development. Issues about corruption should be embedded in the current curriculum especially in higher and tertiary education. Previously due to the patriarch nature of our culture gender issues where an unknown chapter until gender related modules where assimilated in the curriculum of higher learning.

To achieve the transformation of Africa in line with the agenda 2063 initiative all these solutions above should be complemented by an enabling legal framework which adheres to constitutionalism. Separate legal institutions should be established specifically to deal with corruption. For example, labour courts where developed to deal with labour issues. Similarly, corruption courts should be established to deal with corruption cases. As corruption affects every face of life including social, economic and political an all-stakeholder approach is required.

To win the fight against corruption in Africa technology adoption is key. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization in its developmental agenda formally adopted in 2007, Africa lacks basic information communication technology infrastructure. Eliminating personnel through task and process automation reduces corruption. For example, electronic tax systems have the potential to reduce corruption by tax commissioners especially at ports of entry. India’s land registration system reduced corruption in land acquisition and the proposed electronic provisional drivers licensing program will eliminate corruption at Vehicle Inspectorate Department’s deports across the country.

In Africa, corruption has been an impediment of real development in the society. It has ravaged the entire African political, social and economic system making it the most corrupt in the world. If Africa is to be saved from this calamity. As corruption is counterproductive, its presence must be dealt with expeditiously. If corruption is relatively confined, Africa will leap into development. It will find hope for its citizens. Economic and development growth would be higher, sustainable and more evenly distributed without corruption.

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