Opinion

How to win the fight against corruption in Africa

Courtesy of Transparency International

Politics and government

Today marks African Anti-Corruption Day – an important opportunity to recognize both the progress made in the fight against corruption in Africa and the significant work still left to do. To highlight this point, the African Union (AU) designated 2018 as the year for “winning the fight against corruption”. The AU is committed to fighting this problem; it signed several treaties aimed at ensuring democracy, rule of law and good governance. But much more needs to be done. 

Corruption continues to harm Africa, hampering democracy, development and the ability to bring people out of poverty. The continent ranks lowest amongst global regions in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), our ranking of 180 countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. Countries in Africa average 32 out of 100 in their CPI scores, and six out of the bottom ten countries are African.

The impact of corruption

The impact of corruption cannot be underestimated. Roughly 43 per cent of Africans are living in poverty while over US$50 billion worth of stolen assets flow out of Africa every year. That’s money that could be used to invest in jobs and social services, where additional resources are needed most.

Widespread lack of development – from Zimbabwe to Libya – is reinforced by extensive corruption schemes, which scare off investors and discourage further development. Misappropriated funds account for a 25 per cent loss of development resources in Africa.

Individuals and families are also affected. In Sub-Saharan Africa one in two citizens reported paying a bribe for land services, like registering property and stopping their family homes from being taken away.

From slogans to actions

Transparency International welcomes the AU’s commitments, but a great deal of action is still required to free Africa from corruption. Transparency International and our 28 African chapters wrote an open letter to the AU, which highlights seven key areas where the AU should focus its efforts:

  • Financial support. Funding must match commitments to help strengthen existing anti-corruption systems and support civil society.  
  • Treaty ratification. The countries that haven’t done so must ratify the AU Convention to Prevent and Combat Corruption, a shared roadmap implementing governance and anti-corruption policies.
  • Internal investigation. Recent allegations of corruption within the AU Advisory Board on Corruption and throughout various departments of the AU should be investigated and any wrongdoers should be punished.
  • Procurement. The AU should develop minimum standards and guidelines for ethical procurement and build strong procurement practice throughout the continent with training, monitoring and research.
  • Open contracting. Open contracting practices, which make data and documentation clearer and easier to analyze, should be adopted by all African countries.
  • Stolen assets. Governments should create and enforce laws that address the proceeds of corruption, crime and money laundering.
  • Shell companies. Private companies sometimes keep their owners’ names secret, allowing for criminal activities and dirty money to go untraced. AU countries should establish public registers that name these individuals and thoroughly vet bidders for public contracts
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