African countries must tackle corruption if they are to develop economically

There are many challenges facing Africa from its youth unemployment rates to the rapid pace of urbanisation leading to slums and poor service delivery, but behind these challenges also lie opportunities for Africa in terms of economic development and progress. I’ve chosen to highlight a challenge that does not have any flip side and which only has negative consequences for the continent. 

There is growing understanding that Africa’s daunting “next” challenge is to overcome the levels of corruption that pervade all levels of society:  

•From the political elite who enrich themselves instead of serving their citizens, to the police officers paid bribes to overlook a misdemeanor; 

•From the tenderpreneurs who buy contracts rather than win on merit and subsequently deliver poor quality services and infrastructure, to the health professional who requires inducements to provide the free medication a child requires; 

•From the school principal who claims his enrollment is double the reality to siphon off the state grant, to the court official who takes a payment to lose a docket.  

The African Union estimates that 25% of Africa’s GDP is lost to corruption each year.  

This cancer of corruption leads to underdevelopment, fuels conflict and creates a very unfavourable investment environment.  Unfortunately, all too often those in power reach the higher political echelons owing favours to all kinds of groupings meaning that their decisions are not made without bias. This political elite set the culture that cascades down through the public and private sector, irritating the rich (or at least those not benefiting) and making life a misery for the poor, who of course bear the brunt. 

In 2015, 37% of Kenyans and 43% of Nigerians admitted to paying a bribe to a public official, according to an article in the Econmist in December 2015. Liberia and some other West African states fared even worse with some 69% of the population confirming to have paid a bribe for services.  Botswana and Mauritius offered great hope with levels of just 1% reported . 

Corruption is a daily reality of the context in which we operate in many African countries. There is an onus on us, as the international private sector, to ensure that our local offices and staff adhere to the highest moral standards of operation so that we do not become part of the problem.  

What have we as business put in place?  British companies are, since the 2010 Anti-Bribery Act, subject to one of the toughest anti-corruption regimes in the world, at home and broad.  Staff, local and international, as well as the partners we work with in consortia or as sub-contractors need to fully understand our company ethos and zero tolerance policy.  WYG goes to great lengths to ensure that those we work with not only sign up to our policies but understand and value them.  This means that there are a great many companies in the market with which we simply will not work. 

When looking at investing in environments where corruption is rife, one has to recognise that it is not a level playing field.  It is a space where bidding on work and winning work are often not the exact science of quality and cost, even when donor funds are involved.  Does this mean that Africa is not an important emerging market? No. The growth rates and economic potential indicate otherwise, it just means that it is a challenging market where it is essential to understand the political economy of the country.  This is where WYG’s localisation strategy to develop meaningful local partnerships is invaluable as no “outsider” will ever fully understand the different drivers, relations and practices that influence decision-making and behaviour. 

Morally, there is a need for us, as the international private sector, to work within the systems to bring about change. We must complain when tenders are unfairly awarded and not fear missing out on a future opportunity for raising our heads above the parapet. Only through transparent due process will confidence in systems begin to develop, a key element of accountability.  

As well as working with integrity in African markets, WYG is delivering projects in key fields that are known to reduce corruption such as strengthening public finance management systems, support to justice systems, capacity building of civil society actors and many more.     

All of the above is not to say that corruption is a particularly African challenge, we have our fair share of corruption issues in Europe too.  However, corruption in many African countries is facilitated by weak governance institutions and has an exponentially greater impact on the already vulnerable populations who face ongoing misery and poverty even in the midst of great resources.

In the words of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia, “Africa is not poor, it is poorly managed”.  


JUST TO HELP YOU PEOPLE TO THINK recalling that I am not an adviser to any of the administrations but merely to tell you what you need to be thinking about in your deliberations that is contributory for your problems particularly in Nigeria, folks! So, don't take it against me! See what perhaps the political scientists in Nigeria need to consider or thinking about how to counter the effects - am not sure any of them has thought about the effect and how grave it impacts on the reasons for corruption in the country! By and large, after all is said the chicks usually come home to roost as the saying goes! Also in English parlance they have the adage that reads thus: - 'The English man's home is his castle!' Apparently we have the same saying in my Igbo parlance thus:- Ebe onye bi ka orna wachi! And so it brings me to Nigeria where the issue now boils round corruption and insurgency - the redoubtable and the effects! Let me deal with the issue of 'redoubtables' in Nigeria first the reasons for that we know but refuse to own up! We had the issues of 'Sharia' from the leaders in the North and part of that pronouncement inspired the varied problems we experienced already in the NORTHERN NIGERIA - the 'maitatsine' and now the 'boko-haram'; for some reasons we have not had public inquiries on these to discover why and or how the movement started, who inspired them so as to deal with the real causes of them! Then we had the Ogoni and the Niger Delta both were as a result of the failings in the administrations to abide by the recommendations by Sir Wilinkson handed in about 1957 before the Independence - the recommendations you could regard as part pre-conditions for the Self Rule for Nigeria! I many ways you can contrast the insurgency in the South from that in the North! Whilst in the North it was more about religion in the South it was more about neglect and destruction of the environment of the people by oil and gas prospectors with almost reckless abandon and the government of Nigeria refused to do something about the problems posed! Only recently the new administration of Buhari decided that enough was enough and has stepped into the Ogoni' problem to clean the areas affected. The issue of the Niger Delta is yet to be resolved followed by the issue of MASSOB or IPOB these two revolve on issues about neglect, marginalization and poor representation in government since the end of the civil war! The issue of the insurgency in the North rests on religion as the fundamental reasons which go to touch on the critical foundation of the country; first the Sharia issue was propagated under Buhari and was buttressed by IBB's signing of the OIC unilaterally without due process even though Nigeria is a Secular State - i. e. the approval of the NASS the issue is yet to be resolved in the National Assembly! Now the more worrying and I don’t know why they considered it the best idea is about the switch over to American Presidential system of government without first comprehending the true functioning of the system and in the way it is applied in America. America's founding fathers I said already came from a background vast with experience of DEMOCRATIC practice and the application of it where as your leadership after the civil war is totally deficient of any of these principles all being of military background! Without going too far in comparing and contrasting Parliamentary, which you jettisoned and the American type, the former allows you to nuture capable opposition with what is know as ‘shadow cabinet’ to act as check on the party in power as a watch dog where as the later acts on the grounds as a DESPOT with subordinates to which it uses to supervise the affairs of the people! The advantages of the parliamentary system include the means to expose the leader of the party in government whether he knows what the people want or not and the opposition is in the system to taunt, if you like, him so as to expose his inability to perform in the hope of being voted as the next party for the government! Simply put, the presidential arrangement the kind you have for Nigeria does not let you elect the best candidates with capacity to deal with the complex problems in Nigeria! Because of the obvious and ingrained deficiency, he is surrounded by advisers found in the pseudo ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ usually not elected and all that they do is to muddle up the affairs of the people because they work under the influence of vendetta and vindictive thinking! In other wards and in practical terms your system allows anybody not properly groomed to step into the it and occupy a serious position and remains there to muddle all that your country can achieve! It is worse with that 'winner-take-all' misnomer in the heads of your leaders in Nigeria against all manners of operations in the American methods therefore it calls for a quick review for Nigeria if you want to stem the causes of the corruption in the country! Parliamentary system makes possible for you and the electorates to watch the leaders in the Houses and determine on their own who is performing or not unlike what you see in Presidential system where they look at the leaders as in the office for themselves and not for others and so cohorts rally round him whether the person is performing creditably or not! If you understand what I have explained here this is what is happening in Nigeria and will not lead you to anywhere! We heard Buhari say to the agitators for Biafra that the Igbos should form a party that they can use to get to the leadership ladder in Nigeria and you see immediately the conspiracy exposed in the idea or expression - you tell me how an Igbo party can ever muster the kind of follower-ship in Nigeria in the heat of the conspiracies and envy against the tribe by the other two - the Yorubas and the Huasas! Recall that Governor Okoro Ocha urged the Igbos to vote for Buharion the grounds that Buhari has vowed to ‘bugharia’ ndi Igbo in the Imo Stadium rally 2014 before the election of 2015 so, perhaps he (Rochas Okorocha can tell us what this means in practical terms! The brief moment Dr. Jonathan was in government we saw the barrage of criticisms by OBJ and groups from the North - Senator Waku and Junaidu even Ceroma on the death of Yar’Adua because they suspected that he (Jonathan) was an Igbo person and, the criticisms was not abated until last year 2015 election! Lest we forget, we saw also the canny machinations in the run up to the election by the INEC Chairman in the cards (PVC) distributions that led to the postponements and the inflated registered voters list across the North! Tell me with that kind of disposition in those in authority, how a party by the Igbos can ever gain foothold in the presidency? What I want to say in effect is this, that if you want Nigeria and the system to start working again as it used to be, forget euphoria and all that go with it, your best advice is to find way to revert to parliamentary approach or device a cross between it and the Presidential because what you are doing now is not helping matters where your leaders including (OBJ) are hardly in position to comprehend what policies are and there is no group to say No, to what they are doing as we have it in the British system! And until you come to what they do or have it in the British system thereby to let (enable) your poor people understand what is happening in the administrative and political fields on their own through observations and watching the goings-on in the houses, and not led by the noses, you may not make it that early - it'll be more of that here today and gone tomorrow! If you can do something about this you’re more likely going to check on the corruption aspect of your politics, which engenders bribery and graft peddling and the ‘do or die’ motives in the system so as to get into the system and when they do, they hold you to ransom trying to recoup what they expended during the struggles to win in elections!! Parliamentary system is meant to afford you a 'Shadow Cabinet' advantage to keep a watchful eyes on (expose) the party in power - to taunt it in a manner to enable the electorates which may not be that enlightened as you have it in Nigeria, to understand what the government is doing wrongly as far as possible and or practicable in the hope that in the next election, it may be elected! Through the taunts the party in power is made to be careful about taking bribes and doing things recklessly whereas in the Presidential system the Head may not know much about what is to be done to the problems in your country so in such situation he relies on the Kitchen Cabinet - that is the danger of Presidential system! You discover that his cannot happen in America because they have been that developed over 300 years and their laws are very stiff - you cannot mess with the administrations' institutions in America as you can easily do in Nigeria or Africa for example and we are all witness to what is happening in our countries! So like I said it, IF YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE SYSTEM TO EITHER RETURN TO PARLIAMENTARY OR ACHIEVE A CROSS between the two systems well, you're going to continue in the DOLDRUMS with corruption and other forms of it - no doubt about this fact! In defense that it took America the length of time to develop so, you cannot wait for that length of time because as you exist now your natural resources are dwindling because those (being sought after) developed are all looking to have cuts in your 'cake' and you, not organised as you should - being foolhardy about how to manage your public affairs, the resources are now pilfered and that is why you're where you are today struggling to begin to do the right things rather too late!