Corruption represents the single most important challenge to development in Africa. Baïdy Dieng, Partner with Ernst & Young RACINE, says the political will for better governance is key to delivering sustainable progress.
From climate change to agriculture and food security, there is little doubt that daunting policy challenges abound in Africa. And yet too often, Africa’s citizens, who total more than a billion people, must also face the insidious presence of corruption in governance in many countries across the continent.
With little agreement between theorists about its causes, let alone accord between policy advisors on how to reduce it, tackling corruption is today at the heart of the reform agenda for developing countries today.
So what is the way forward? In the past decade, most African governments have tried to address the issue. Some countries, such as Tanzania, Rwanda and Liberia, have made substantive progress by making it a cross-government priority.
Ethiopia, Ghana and Uganda have created new institutions and systems to establish effective services. But there is still more much work to be done.
It is incumbent on institutional reforms to produce well designed laws and institutions that minimize the number of individuals and groups that are placed at a strategic disadvantage. Building on existing efforts to minimize corruption, with a special emphasis on transparency and accountability, is a good place to start.
The fight against corruption cannot take place without material backing from international organizations, but this support is wasted unless real political will exists at the highest level in government, starting with exemplary leaders that initiate and support the process.
It is important that the network of donors remain open and when there is antagonism with local leaders, donors can focus on preparing for a time when political commitment emerges.
The World Bank estimated that globally bribes amount to about US$1t a year. The US$150b of that money changing hands in Africa represents approximately 25% of the continent’s GDP.
Working together is important as smaller donors may be limited in what they can achieve on their own; they can learn from the experiences of their larger counterparts. Finally, peace and stability is a pre-condition for any lasting progress.
Ongoing or developing conflict will often reverse any progress made in the fight against corruption. With genuine government support key to fighting corruption, the main challenge for donors is to assist policy-makers in creating an environment in which sustainable reform can flourish.
Methods of controlling corruption
Strengthen state institutions to constrain the abuse of public authority
- Legal and judicial branches should be reformed and made independent to ensure evaluation of ongoing effectiveness of public officials and public bodies.
- Strengthen parliamentary powers.
- Increase powers of police and courts.
Create anti-corruption agencies
- In some countries, such as Rwanda or Nigeria, they helped prosecute many accused of corruption, recover stolen public funds and pass laws mandating competitive bidding on government contracts.
- Reduce state control of markets, change incentives against corrupt behaviour, privatize and deregulate.
- Publishing budgets is a step in the right direction with regards to good communication. Detailing how that budget is spent is crucial — a free media is vital.
- Each year, details should be made public about what has been funded, who has benefited and how many purchases have been made during the year.
- Botswana is a good example, having achieved a good level of trust by managing its major mining resources effectively and communicating transparently.
Bolster civil society participation
- Civil society can pressure the government for reform, increase public awareness through media and civic education, encourage participation in the civil service and encourage oversight of public bodies.
- Promote free and independent media, pressure governments to implement freedom of information legislation.