Corruption in Africa

January 6, 2016

Africa is a continent of more than 1 billion people and remains the World’s most poorest region. Its greatest challenge to development and brighter future is politics and corruption.Corruption seems to be ingrained as a habit, instead of a crime in African countries. Despite the hard work of the graft fighting agencies, corruption is still the revered option for many Africans to feather their nests as well as to preserve their strategic positions. Ironically, 70 percent of African continent’s population or 700 million people are categorised as poor while many among the 300 million live prosperously with stolen money. Corruptors are not afraid of the law. They already own millions of dollars, luxury houses and cars. It’s all worth it, because in African countries corruptors get remissions to cut their prison time. It is well known that their cells have better facilities than the others, because they can afford the bribes. Then they walk free, increasing public distrust in the government. Corruption is one of the worst extraordinary white-collar crimes and the African governments should take it seriously. Thus it is urgent to strengthen regulations to eradicate corruption and find new ways to make corruptors wary and make people reluctant to engage in corruption in the future. Ultimately, African countries requires to be on solid footing, and one requisite factor has always been absent and that’s the issue of transparent governance, which can help the continent economically in the long run. The global transparency index has never been kind to African countries. In all spheres of life, when “transparency“ is questioned, appeal to investors is zero.

The low transparency score has been part of African countries for so long that many business people may not know how to operate otherwise. In other words, many businesses, whether they are local or foreign, have become accustomed to the way things in Africa. They have become part of a dirty economic system in which bribes, political connections and dressing up of balance sheets can determine successes or failures. It will take a lot of political courage to effect economic reforms that matter.I have several proposals worth considering. It would be ideal to see African governments publish a corruptors’ list on official government websites. That way, the identities of every corruptor caught and charged should be published by the government on a website providing corruptors’ profiles including work experience, corruption history and also the amount of state losses. Corruptors in developed countries where such lists are published are known to have admitted that such public announcement are extremely embarrassing. This method also educates citizens to be more aware of this extraordinary crime. In the long term, citizens should be expected to collectively help to eradicate corruption in a more effective way because it is a mechanism which acts as a kind of shock therapy for both corruptors and citizens. True reforms are like surgery. They will be painful for a considerable period of time, but in the long term it will be worth it.

The powers that be in African countries are being confronted with a dilemma which is whether to reform now and face substantial risks or do the right things later to avoid disrupting the “mafias” way that can at least deliver immediate results.The road ahead is full of challenges, although what African countries have to do sounds quite simple. Sustained economic prosperity needs time, patience and a collective national push.Also, countries should enforce social work as punishment. The idea of putting corruption defendants into a social work role basically has been raised in other places like Latin America but until now in African countries there is no single country with clear regulation and mechanism enabling it. The social work can range from sweeping main roads, cleaning toilets or taking care of the mentally ill or the elderly in nursing homes.It would be important as well to make citizens see social sanctions in the form of psychological impact for the corruptors as well as the family through the simple penalty of social work in public. Catching corruptors in public spaces would be ideal way of fighting the graft. In African countries, too many corruption cases remain unsolved, increasing skepticism toward law enforcement. Governments must act boldly by making arrests more visible, where possible, would help to make people less worried about reporting corruption cases they know of to the relevant authorities or the police, if they are sure they will be granted protection as part of eradicating corruption. This method will also work as shock therapy for corruptors.A new mechanism of corruption eradication is definitely needed, and African governments could mix and match ideas from developed world.Africa need a braver and better cooperation between graft fighting agencies with the police, for a continent without corruption.

Contador Harrison