Stem tide of corruption in Africa
Continent dogged by poor leadership, policies of the belly, greed, patronage and selfishness, China Dodovu writes
AS THE countries of Africa and the Africans in the diaspora celebrate 54 years of the birth of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), it is perhaps necessary to ask a philosophical question that is both significant and deep: What is Africa celebrating?
Are we celebrating that Africa is independent today? Are we celebrating the continent’s agenda 2063? Are we celebrating that we replaced the OAU with the African Union (AU)? Are we celebrating the adoption of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and that we launched the Pan-African Parliament (Pap) and the Peace and Security Council?
When leaders of 32 African nations converged in Ethiopia‘s capital Addis Ababa on May 25, 1963 to form the OAU, they spoke at length on the need for global continental unity and expressed support and solidarity with countries which were yearning to shake off the shackles of colonial rule.
The decolonisation of Africa took place under the backdrop of the Atlantic Charter signed on August 14, 1941 between the US and Great Britain, which set out a postwar reconstruction programme and the right to self-determination for the people of the world. Therefore, after World War II, the process of decolonisation gathered momentum as Africans increasingly agitated for more political rights and independence.
At the time of the inaugural OAU assembly, 20 countries had obtained their independence between 1958 and 1963, and in some parts of the African continent colonial powers were reluctantly and grudgingly relinquishing power, while in other parts African people were launching protracted struggles against the recalcitrant colonial governments.
Then, what is foremost that Africa’s people remember since their independence? As we mark Africa Day, undoubtedly they remember the struggles they waged to free themselves of colonial rule.
They remember how, in 1957, the Gold Coast became independent Ghana, the first independent black state in Africa under Kwame Nkrumah. They remember how, in 1958, Sékou Touré in a historical confrontation with France’s General Charles de Gaulle demanded the outright independence for Guinea. They remember how, in 1960, Belgium conceded and agreed to free the Congo where Patrice Lumumba took over.
They remember how, in 1961, Julius Nyerere became president of Tanganyika; how, in 1963, Jomo Kenyatta became prime minister of Kenya after its independence from Britain and how, in 1964, Northern Rhodesia became Zambia, under Kenneth Kaunda.
They remember how, in 1975, Angola, Guinea Bissau and Mozambique gained independence from Portugal and Agostinho Neto, Luis Cabral and Samora Machel became presidents respectively and how, in 1980, Rhodesia became Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe.
But equally, they remember how, in 1989, Sam Nujoma led Namibia to its independence and how Nelson Mandela, after spending 27 years in prison, dislodged – Pretoria – a citadel of settler obduracy to become the first president of a democratic South Africa.
Other than all these historical events, 54 years on, what else do the people remember? It is not far-fetched to say they mostly remember theft, pillage, patronage, genocide, rampant poverty, diseases, widespread corruption, precipitous economic decline and very sadly, the betrayal of their post-independence aspirations.
Despite systems and structures that African leaders have put in place in the post-independent era, why is the state of Africa still appalling today? Why has the independence of African states not ushered in peace and prosperity that many had anticipated? And why is Africa still poor?
In a genuine effort to answer the question, Robert Kaplan in his spirited, rousing and provocative book The Coming Anarchy, offers us scrupulous, far-ranging insights on the state of current world affairs in the post-Cold War era.
In characterising the appalling state of the continent and what is to come if the rot is not arrested, Kaplan predicts that in the coming years scarcity, crime, overpopulation, tribalism and disease will rapidly destroy the social fabric of Africa.
Given the dire situation confronting the nations of Africa, individually and collectively, in his seminal book Why Africa is Poor, Greg Mills asserts that the main reason why Africa’s people are poor is because their leaders have made this choice. Africa’s problems are exacerbated by the scourge of corruption, which is derailing progress and victories scored in the post-independent era. Some of the causes of corruption are: colonial legacy, poor leadership, politics of the belly, omnipotent states, greed and selfishness. The situation is worsened by the fact that mostly the perpetrators of corruption are the top African echelons who among others use patronage networks, nepotism, weaken institutions of governance, lack of accountability and transparency, lack of political will, weak ethical values, concentration of state power, weak judicial systems and conflicts.
Tom Burgis, in his book The Looting Machine, notes that the looting of Africa’s resources has been modernised and looters no longer use guns to dispossess inhabitants of their land, gold and diamonds, but today they use phalanxes of lawyers and other underhand means to bleed destitute nations of their resources.
In order for Africa to progress, all countries must carry the vision to create a better Africa through the African Renaissance – underpinned by poverty alleviation, job creation and rapid economic growth.
The vision must also focus on democratising African countries; stabilising their political systems; making joint efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts; creating developmental states; intra-continental trade; and developing the ability of African governments to take responsibility for the development of their societies.
Africans will only truly and genuinely celebrate Africa Day when its leaders confront a menace of corruption head-on. They must accept that corruption poses a threat to human development and security, and economically it has disastrous effects on their prosperity.
Unless they do so, the dreams and aspirations of its founders will be crushed.
Worst perpetrators of graft in Africa’s upper echelons
China Dodovu is an executive director at the Aim27 Foundation