Africans are not biologically disposed to be corrupt.

2015-06-07 22:28

Africans are not biologically disposed to be corrupt.

The old adage that Africans are biologically disposed to be corrupt does not hold any more, as there are many countries outside of Africa that are ranked below some African countries according to Transparency International and The Corruption Perceptions Index of 2014.

It is interest to observe that all BRICS countries rank below South Africa when it comes to the Corruptions Perception Index, which suggests that, although South Africa has some unacceptable elements of corruption, it is not as bad as we are made to believe by the local media. The index employs a scale of 0-100, with zero being highly corrupt and 100 being very clean. South Africa scores 44 and ranks at 67 out of 175 countries, followed by Brazil at number 69 and a score of 43, India at 85 and a score of 38, China at 100 and a score of 36, and Russia at 131 and a score of 27.

Surprisingly, the US has played a global "big brother" role over the years, including its most recent leadership role, to unearth the FIFA corruption. It is ranked 17 and has a score of 74, which means the US is also not very clean. The number one spot belongs to Denmark, with a score of 92. Lastly, the UK is number 14, with a score of 78.

The World Economic Forum, in a joined article with Transparency International, argued that corruption is the biggest impediment to Africa's development. To this end, it is argued "Illicit financial flows from Africa are quickly draining the continent and depriving African countries of resources for investment and development."

Furthermore, it was recently reported that the African continent is losing over 50 billion US dollars annually due to this illegal outflow of cash through fraudulent schemes by governments and multinational corporations, which is denying the poor access to basic services.

To respond to this pandemic corruption, growing consensus suggest that it is imperative to create functional checks and balances in the interest of meaningful and sustainable development. To achieve this, civil society should be activated by raising awareness and distributing simplified information on how corruption is compromising its livelihood, and this should be done in a language that is understandable to everyday people. This should also be done in ways that do not incite violent strikes that reverse development gains, but in ways that empower citizens to ask relevant questions to government officials. These educational efforts should be coupled with African leaders' choosing not to participate in corruption and resisting the temptations offered by multinational corporations that are only interested in their bottom lines.

Noteworthy is the fact that the global community, including the West, should act strongly against corruption as the outflow of cash from Africa is going to their developed countries. Therefore, efforts designed to fight corruption should not be one-sided or rather pursue the interest of the West only as such is not helping in the normalization of immigration patterns. To this end, more often than not, push immigration factors that force people out of their countries of origin stem from lack of the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, and therefore, dealing with global corruption is in the interest of individual nations.

To further put things into perspective, the former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki argued that, “total illicit financial outflows from Africa, conservatively estimate, were approximately $854 billion during the period 1970 to 2008.” This further suggests that corruption in Africa can be traced back to many years before democracy in most instances. Moreover, the “total illicit outflows from Africa may be as high as $1.8 trillion, and the top five countries with the highest outflow measured were: Nigeria ($89.5 billion) Egypt ($70.5 billion), Algeria ($25.7 billion), Morocco ($25 billion), and South Africa ($24.9 billion).”

Again, it is also interesting to observe that though there is a huge room for South Africa’s improvement, the country is not doing as bad as it is always reported by the local media.

Lastly, the meaningful review of the BBC Inquiry, which attempted to answer the question of “Why is South Africa Still Unequal”, identified five factors, which I’m not going to discuss here. I will only look at the impact of patronage politics, as it results in corruption. These factors are uneven education, patronage politics, corruption, the political deal of 1994, and economic policies.

One of the experts in this inquiry noted corruption in the political culture of patronage, arguing that most political leaders have no alternatives to make a living outside of politics. They do not have other skills or qualifications, as they sacrificed education in the interest of the political struggle against colonialism and apartheid. Hence, they refuse to step down in due time, and they opt for building support based on re-election by rewarding their supporters.

These concerns appear to be legitimate, and perhaps it is high time that the government or political parties begin to organise skills development initiatives for their members and develop clear succession plans with meaningful exit strategies for officials. This will not only assist in fighting corruption, but also help freedom fighters to have something to fall back on in their post-political lives.

The takeaway from this opinion piece is that Africans are not biologically disposed to be corrupt, but are equally human and can preside over clean governments. Illicit financial outflows from Africa is not only negatively impacting Africa, but also the world at large, as it shapes, in one way or another, immigration patterns. Therefore, it is necessary to coordinate a global fight against corruption, including the education of civil society to understand the impact of corruption, and also organise skills empowerment initiatives for the struggle-heroes, so that they can go rest and do something legitimate after years of fighting for the liberation of the masses.

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