The anti-graft watchdog, Transparency International’s 2014 corruption perception index reported that 92% of African countries scored below 50 out of a possible 100. Somalia shared a joint bottom in these rankings with North Korea, with a score of just 8 out of 100. Transparency International’s view was that corruption is being perpetuated by corporate secrecy and global money laundering in emerging economies (most of which are African). With an average continental score of 33 out of 100, Sub-Saharan Africa still has a long way to go in its fight against corruption.
Credit: Transparency International Regional Infographics 2014
Corruption has been one of the main reasons economic growth in Africa is not at its best. Political leaders who use their power to influence decisions are some of the major culprits together with other heavyweights in the various African countries. A wave of greed in the leaders has propagated waves of greed in the grass roots too, since the citizens look up to their leaders as “role models”. Any action by the leaders to do away with corruption at grass root level is perceived to be a case of a kettle calling a pot black. For example, Zimbabwe’s government offices were purged last year of elements that were poisoning the economy with their corrupt tendencies. Some of the leaders fired from office were said to have 10% shares in almost any viable company in the country and these had been acquired through the use of intimidation and absolute force.
“Those accused of corruption if there is evidence will be charged. With the knowledge we have, if you were a minister or civil servant, you are fired,” said President Mugabe, as he initiated the start of the purges. Such rigour is what Africa needs if anything is to come from the entrepreneurial exploits of citizens.
One might say the purges were way overdue, considering the harm that had already been done to the economy by the government leaders that were fired from office by the Zimbabwean President. Reports claim that in 2008 when the Marange diamonds of Zimbabwe were discovered, the Vice President at the time used her political muscle to force her way into the fields and in the process amassed unspeakable wealth from the diamond fields. State Media in Zimbabwe claims that Vice President Mujuru has an estimated net worth of USD$9 billion and we can intelligently infer where that came from. Unfortunately, apart from being fired, no one knows what has been done to fix the grave injustices she has done to the nation under the guise of being a savvy businesswoman. Her story together with the stories of many others like Cuthbert Dube, a board chairperson of several government owned entities, do not have conclusions anyone in the country understands. They seem to have been forgotten soon after the bold declarations by the President which makes one think through facts. Were the purges merely a political gambit or they were for the people? Either way, they proved that emerging economies like that of Zimbabwe are being hindered by greedy individuals occupying high offices.
Several countries now have funds to help startups fulfil their mandate. Zimbabwe is one of those countries with a number of funds both by the government and the private sector. However, like every other facet of the economy, this has also been downed by greedy officials who loot from the funds or politicise them thus stealing the thunder from what were supposed to be economically expedient activities. Million dollar ideas are being killed off because of lack of funds while those funds are actually there on paper. If Africa is to succeed, these funds need to be fully vitalised and used for their specific mandate and not politicised for popularity gains. Many a funds have gone to waste in Zimbabwe and surely in other African countries too. President Sani Abacha of Nigeria is a perfect example of the levels of fund embezzlement in certain African countries. After his death, accounts with totals of about $100 million United states dollars were frozen and his government is said to have looted well over $3 billion in its tenure in office. With such leaders who are anti-development, Africa is being literally held at ransom.
“Countries at the bottom (of the corruption rankings) need to adopt radical anti-corruption measures in favour of their people. Countries at the top of the index should make sure they don’t export corrupt practices to underdeveloped countries,” Jose Ugaz, the chair of Transparency International remarked.
Surely this cannot be overstated; things ought to change in Africa. Leaders who are using their influence to favour their own ends should be brought to account and not just fired and ignored like in the case of Zimbabwe’s former Vice President and Cuthbert Dube. Laws should be followed through because corruption is affecting industry adversely and that has to be stopped. Numerous companies could have been started through capitalisation funds but they all amounted to nothing because of the greed of a few people. Africa cannot continue to be its own greatest enemy; it does not afford that luxury. Leaders without the people at heart should be identified and booted out so as to enhance economic growth in Africa.