Not so long ago, members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) carried placards as they took part in a national strike over issues such as corruption and job losses in Cape Town, South Africa. It was October 7, 2020.
From one country to another
On June 21, Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera sacked the country’s police chief, suspended several senior officials and also took the extraordinary step of stripping his deputy, Saulos Chilima, of all his powers after he was accused of receiving bribes from a UK-based businessman. Zuneth Sattar in exchange for government contracts worth over $150 million. While Chilima is Malawi’s highest-ranking official to date to be removed from office over alleged corruption, few were shocked by the accusations. After all, it was only in January that Chakwera had to dissolve the country’s cabinet after three prominent ministers – Lands Minister Kezzie Msukwa; Labor Minister Ken Kandodo and Energy Minister Newton Kambala have been accused of corruption.
Unfortunately, a pandemic of corruption is raging in Malawi and the rest of the continent.
Indeed, from Malawi to South Africa and Zimbabwe, from Angola to Mozambique and Namibia, in African countries, senior officials and their relatives in cohorts with business leaders and industry, have long seemed to shamelessly steal from long-suffering populations. masses.
South Africa, for example, has recently been rocked by allegations that former President Jacob Zuma and a plethora of former ministers and state-owned company CEOs systematically planned and executed state capture to help the wealthy Gupta family and line their pockets. On June 22, South African Chief Justice Raymond Zondo released the latest installment of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and found that the ruling African National Congress party under Zuma was authorizing, supported and enabled corruption and “state capture”.
He also criticized the current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who served as vice president under Zuma, for being reluctant to act with more urgency to resist the emergence and establishment of “state capture”. “. Beyond the Gupta scandal, South Africa is fighting to recoup the millions of dollars it lost to dodgy contracts linked to the nation’s campaign to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
In Zimbabwe, Kudakwashe Tagwirei, a businessman allied to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is accused of amassing $90 million through a shady deal with the central bank.
In Mozambique, the son of ex-president Armando Guebuza, Ndambi, the former finance minister, Manuel Chang and several other senior ruling party officials are accused of having participated in the disappearance of the loans contracted to finance surveillance maritime: fishing and shipyard projects worth $2.2 billion.
In Namibia, former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau and former justice minister Sacky Shanghala are accused of accepting multi-million dollar bribes from an Icelandic fishing company.
In Angola, Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of former Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, is accused of having earned billions of dollars through illicit activities.
The damage caused by high-level and systemic corruption to already struggling African economies cannot be ignored or considered normal or negligible. The illicit activities of elected officials, bureaucrats and industry leaders prevent states from providing the most basic services to their citizens.
Just last year, Acting United Nations Resident Coordinator Rudolf Schwenk said Malawi was failing to provide its citizens with effective health care, quality education, accessible justice and an accountable and responsive democracy. due to high levels of corruption.
South Africa, meanwhile, is experiencing power outages largely because corruption and gross mismanagement have weakened the Eskom utility. To make matters worse, the country is experiencing this lack of reliable energy in the midst of an unemployment crisis. Today, a record 7.9 million South Africans would be out of work.
Illicit financial flows, another scourge
In addition to localized corruption perpetrated by public entities, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that Africa loses around $88.6 billion, or 3.7% of its gross domestic product (GDP), each year in illicit financial flows.
This colossal loss should surprise no one. After all, many countries that top Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, such as Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Chad, Burundi, Somalia, Republic Congo and South Sudan are all in Africa. It is therefore not surprising that African youth are extremely concerned about the deplorable and depreciating situation of the continent.
According to the Africa Youth Survey 2022 released on June 14, young Africans believe that creating “new well-paying jobs” and “reducing government corruption” should be the continent’s top two priorities. The survey interviewed young adults, many of whom are students, from 16 African countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Angola, Kenya, Gabon and Malawi. Young people are clearly aware that corruption is perhaps Africa’s number one problem. But are the institutions tasked with moving the continent forward taking this devastating disease as seriously as they should? Well, they say they do.
Toothless anti-corruption institutions
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) have each established protocols on corruption. The AU seems to be particularly proud of its anti-corruption efforts. He boasts that his fight against corruption has contributed significantly to the ongoing transformation of economies across the continent and strengthens the resolve to achieve inclusive and sustainable development as envisioned in Africa’s Agenda 2063. .
In reality, however, the well-heralded efforts of these institutions to fight corruption have produced little tangible gain. As the examples above clearly demonstrate, corruption is still widespread on the continent. The only thing that has changed in recent years is the fact that due to a public awareness of the evils of corruption, most African politicians now feel the need to announce their determination to fight corruption when their election campaigns. However, these election promises rarely translate into action. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, for example, ran for office on an anti-corruption ticket in 2015, but Nigerians believe that corruption has, in fact, proliferated under his leadership. Similarly, Ramaphosa staked his 2019 presidential campaign on a promise to put South Africa on a path of renewal, transparency and accountability, but South Africans believe corruption has actually gotten worse. under his direction.
Like Buhari and Ramaphosa, Mnangagwa’s anti-corruption campaign in Zimbabwe has yielded meager results and he is accused of presiding over a dysfunctional, corrupt government.
So while African leaders undoubtedly talk the talk, they seem unable to walk the walk. But after a pandemic that has intensified existing economic struggles and amid a major conflict in Europe threatening Africa’s food security, among many other challenges, the AU cannot pursue its fight against corruption with hollow platitudes and tick exercises. The body tasked with leading the continent towards better democratic governance and sustainable prosperity should accept before it is too late that there is an ongoing pandemic of corruption in Africa, and that the usual approach to combating it generally proves ineffective. Therefore, he must change course and start systematically holding leaders accountable for their failure to stem government corruption.
Need for AU to wake up
The AU must establish credible continental standards and independent oversight mechanisms to advance the anti-corruption agenda and implement them vigorously as a means of promoting democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance.
Eradicating corruption is not only essential to establishing firm adherence to the rule of law and political stability, but it is also essential to promoting economic growth and reducing poverty in countries like Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa.
It is time for the AU to assert its independence and demonstrate a strong, renewed and active commitment to mitigating the socio-economic consequences of poor leadership in Africa. If he does not act quickly to end corruption, the continent’s economies could soon fall victim to this undeclared but devastating pandemic.
The African Union must establish credible continental standards and independent oversight mechanisms to advance the anti-corruption agenda. Indeed, corruption is devastating economies across the continent. Therefore, the continental body must act quickly to save its people.