Maendeleo Group Blog

The year 2018 will be remembered as a landmark year for high level policy action on anti-corruption. Previous commentary on the topic can be found here, here and here.

Notable is the dedication of 2018 by the African Union (AU) as the African Anti-Corruption Year on the theme “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation” The dedication of 2018 as the African Anti-Corruption Year closely follows the 24th Ordinary Summit of the AU which also considered the report of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows (IFF’s) and adopted a declaration on IFF’s. The report of the High Level Panel revealed that Africa loses at least $ 50 billion a year to Illicit Financial Flows, a large portion of which (close to 60%) is through unethical business practises such as transfer pricing and aggressive tax avoidance practises. Interestingly, the High Level Panel found that corruption only constitutes 5% of the total illicit outflows.

The seminal work of the High Level Panel has played a crucial role in recalibrating the global debate around corrupt practises, shining the spotlight on western countries and their multinational corporations and the role they play in abetting corrupt practises. This could be said to go against conventional opinion that has largely depicted Africa as corrupt and western countries as ethical. An examination of the Transparency International rankings reinforces this perception with a country like Somalia ranking poorly, while Switzerland is rated highly despite being a secrecy jurisdiction that facilitates the concealment of the proceeds of corruption. This has led some to argue that such corruption indices do not place sufficient focus on the supply side of corruption.

Unsurprisingly, indications suggest that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is pushing back on the work of the High Level Panel and has been attempting to question the methodology and findings by attempting to focus more on the illegal dimensions of Illicit Financial Flows.

With these developments as a backdrop, an emerging African voice can be distilled from the recently concluded 31st Summit of the AU which was held on 1 and 2 July, 2018 in Mauritania’s desert capital Nouakchott. Three issues are notable;
First, taking que from the tone of the High Level Panel, the summit criticized the labelling of corruption as an African phenomena.

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Instead, the summit viewed corruption as a universal phenomenon and that the fight against corruption constitutes part of the broader debate around global economic and tax justice including the progressive elimination of tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions both within and outside Africa.

Secondly, the summit also noted importance of asset recovery as a key priority for African countries. Countries like Nigeria whose president Muhammadu Buhari was appointed to champion the African Anti-Corruption year have suffered from difficulties in tracing, freezing and returning stolen assets. The close to 20 year journey to recover the Abacha loot from the Swiss authorities is a good example of the perils African governments face is the recovery of stolen assets. On asset recovery, the priorities include ending unnecessary conditionality’s for asset recovery, developing a Common African Position on Asset Recovery and working with international partners to adopt a transparent and efficient timetable for the recovery and return of stolen assets.

Finally, corruption prevention remains a key priority with an emphasis on anti-corruption education and sensitization campaigns targeting young people as a means of catalysing attitudinal change. In a continent that is growing younger, investing in emerging generation of anti-corruption change agents will be crucial to stemming corruption and developing new methodologies to fight the vice. Youth-led organisations and movements such as YouthHub Africa, budgiT and JamiiForums are good examples of how social media and ICTs can be used to engage and mobilize young people on transparency issues.

These three pillars will likely serve as thrust for African discourse on the topic in the coming years and are reflective of the uniquely African voice in the global anti-corruption debate.

An abridged version of this post was featured on the Global Anti-Corruption Blog

Selemani is Legal Expert specializing in African Governance trends. He currently serves as Senior Policy Officer for Political and Legal Matters at the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption. He is also an advisor at The Maendeleo Group and a member of the Pan African Lawyers Union Expert Task Force on Illicit Financial Flows. The views expressed by the author are entirely his own and do not reflect the position of any organisation he may be affiliated with.
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Published in Africa

One just needs to look at the newspaper headlines across Africa to see the continent’s struggle with corruption: South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, all have seen corruption and bribery rise recently. According to the latest Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, “not a single country, anywhere in the world, is corruption-free”. But in sub-Saharan Africa, people in 40 out of 46 countries think theirs has a serious corruption problem.

Africa has lost over USD 1 trillion to illicit financial flows over the last 50 years, as reported the African Union’s high level panel on illicit financial flows (IFFs), led by South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki. This is roughly equivalent to all the official development assistance the continent received during the same timeframe. According to the panel, companies and government officials are illegally moving as much as USD 60 billion out of Africa each year.

From high-level political abuse to harassment by police officers, teachers, doctors or customs officials, corruption drains countries of resources, stifles small businesses and hampers education and healthcare. Together with lack of accountability and transparency, it is the most harmful barrier to development in Africa. While there’s no silver bullet to eradicate corruption, a combination of forces can improve the situation.

Enforcing targeted legal frameworks and policies and restoring the integrity of government institutions should come first. But the media and civil society also have a watchdog role to play. As long as the public continues to distance themselves from the fight against corruption, corruption will persist.

corruption mgEvidence shows it is more effective to target corruption-prone sectors than trying to fix it all in one go.

For example, Botswana and Rwanda use technology to limit direct contact between government officials and citizens in public procurement processes, one of the largest source of corruption in Africa today. The result is a much improved service delivery.

Our ‘Tax Inspectors Without Borders’ partnership with the OECD improves local audit capacities to address tax avoidance. Since the launch of the project in July 2015, eight pilot countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America collected more than $260m in additional tax revenue. More than $100m of that was generated through tax audits in Zimbabwe.

While governments must keep the pressure on closing international financial loopholes that perpetuate illicit finance, creating a domestic culture of accountability and transparency underpinned by effective public finance management tools is also essential.

Governments must be seen to fight impunity. A “get rich quick” culture in which wrongdoing, theft and corruption go unpunished perpetuates a society-wide crisis of integrity, compromises the youth and future leaders, and jeopardizes long-term stability and development.

Prosecution and convictions on corruption-related offences need to be strengthened, with long jail terms or banishment from political or business life serving as strong deterrents. On the other hand, paying back or returning what has been acquired illegally could be considered as an incentive for corrupt individuals and mitigating circumstances for judges.

With the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063, African countries have committed to “leave no one behind” and “to an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa”. There is no doubt that tackling corruption matters for people long-excluded from decision-making processes, for small businesses unable to grow due to red tape, for disabled people denied access to services, and for marginalized communities that are victims of land grabbing and displacement by the powerful.

This International Anti-Corruption Day is an opportune time to recommit and be #UnitedAgainstCorruption in order to achieve these two bold and ambitious agendas that have people’s wellbeing at their core. The future of the 1.2 billion people in Africa rests on it.

Written by: Njoya Tikum


ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.africa.undp.org/

Published in Africa

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