It was a sad moment for Africa. Sadder still for Mauritius, the formerly good pupil that used to top all the rankings in Africa. Today, that prestigious place was snatched by Botswana, with Mauritius left miles behind in the fight against corruption.
Hearts were heavy though hope still alive as delegates from across the continent gathered in Gaborone, Botswana, to take stock of the situation of corruption in Africa during a regional conference on Corruption and the Challenges of Economic Transformation in Southern Africa.
The verdict is unflattering: Corruption in Africa has reached epidemic proportions, is spreading like cancer and taking different forms. The comments of the keynote speaker, Former President of Liberia Amos Sawyer, sounded painfully familiar as he highlighted the type of corruption that has legislators “raise their salaries and benefits unreasonably and disproportionately, claim other privileges, and behave in ways that are not exemplary.” According to him, this undermines “their own authority to promote good governance but further corrupts the system of governance”.
ECA’s director, Said Adejumobi, shed light on the devastating effects of corruption, “It decelerates development, accentuates poverty, generates conflict, retards economic growth, denies quality social services and devalues the state and its people,” he said. As for the scale and proportions it has taken, he quotes the World Bank which estimates that “businesses and individuals pay an estimated $1.5 trillion in bribes each year. This is about 2% of global GDP and 10 times the value of overseas development assistance.” He combines this finding with Transparency International’s 2014 survey and Afrobarometer that noted that about 75 million Africans are reported to have paid bribes to get services. “A financial magazine (Financier Worldwide) in March 2016 carried the headline, ‘Is Africa where the corrupt roam free?’,” he said, coming to the conclusion that “Corruption denies Africa not only development but also global respectability.”
The conference, organised by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Southern African Regional Office AU- SARO and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, and officially opened by Botswana President Mokgweetsi E.K. Masisi, is no coincidence. 2018 is the year Heads of State and Governments, through the African Union, have dedicated as the year of anti-corruption in Africa. And Botswana has been leading in the fight against corruption in Africa. Said Adejumobi highlighted that the choice of Botswana for the meeting was quite deliberate. “Botswana is a shining light and beacon of hope in the fight against corruption in Africa and has one of the best anti-corruption profiles on the continent with others like Rwanda, Seychelles, Cape Verde and Namibia,” he said. It was a sad moment for Mauritius that has seen itself slide from the top rank in Africa and a role model in the continent to being totally absent from the debate.
The conference, where 45 research papers were presented and round tables convened, ended on the positive note that the debate is the beginning of what Adejumobi calls a journey where “we all play our part in making the cost of corruption greater than its benefits”.
My hope is that Mauritius also embarks on such a journey to get back its lost reputation and allow fewer corrupt to continue to roam free.
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