From the Editor’s Keyboard

Corruption, Africa’s constant nightmare

By  | 29 October 2010 at 02:01 | 866 views

Transparency International, the global anti-corruption organization has released its 2010 report on corruption around the world and the usual suspects are still on parade.

While countries like Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore did extremely well the usual bad boys-Afghanistan, Myanmar(formerly Burma) and Somalia are way down the totem pole.

TI, which is based in Germany, usually attributes extreme corruption to factors like political instability and conflict (war or ethnic strife). The argument is that corruption thrives in situations where law and order and constitutional government are extremely fragile or non-existent. In most highly corrupt countries existing laws are also not respected or implemented.

The TI report which is a compilation of data from public and private sources in each of the 178 countries of the world with varying degrees of cooperation from the said sources,however observed an improvement in regards to corruption in countries like Bhutan, Chile, Ecuador, Macedonia, Gambia, Haiti, Jamaica, Kuwait and Qatar while an increase in corruption has been observed in places like Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Madagascar, Niger and the United States. Canada is one of the good boys with a comparatively low level of corruption.

There is a very high level of corruption in most developing countries but analysts in those countries usually blame some Western governments and entrepreneurs for encouraging and involving themselves in corruption in places like Africa and Asia. Most of the wealth stolen from Africa, for instance, finds itself in western banks, usually in Switzerland, the UK and France.

Due to that problem, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution that set up the United Nations Convention against corruption in 2003, a turning point in the fight against corruption worldwide. That resolution has put in place a number of measures governments could but place to combat corruption. One of these measures is closer collaboration among global anti-crime units. Transparency International also stressed this in this year’s report as in previous years. The report noted:

"To fully address these challenges, governments need to integrate anti-corruption measures in all spheres, from the responses to the financial crisis and climate change to commitments by the international community to eradicate poverty. For this reason TI advocates stricter implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption, the only global initiative that provides a framework for putting an end to corruption."

Some people Doug Hellinger, executive director of Development GAP,blame the World Bank for some of the corruption in Africa. He told the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency in March this year:

"The Bank historically has been the facilitator for Northern corruption by changing the policy environment in these countries." The term "North" refers to the world’s developed countries.

"Just the fact that the World Bank insisted on full implementation of the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) and held back loans until they were implemented and the fact that these programmes such as privatisation and import liberalisation benefited Northern companies, it created an environment of corruption, it’s a corrupt practice," he said.

Nuhu Ribadu, a former anti-corruptionn crusader and prosecutor in Nigeria, believes that corruption in his country can be defeated. He said at an Oxford University Centre for Global Development event this year that:

"Despite the immense size of the problem, corruption can be defeated. My own experience at the EFCC in Nigeria taught me that change is possible, yet difficult. With the right political atmosphere, we secured an unprecedented number of convictions of those previously regarded as untouchable."

"Unfortunately, we proved that while it was possible to punish some of the guilty, it was a much larger task to tackle a culture so rich with corruption. Anticorruption offices need help and support from agencies from around the world, particularly the United States. With a strong internal and external base, anticorruption movements have the potential to conquer this cancer on society."

Nuhu, regarded as a hero by many Nigerians, later fell out with the authorities in his country and had to flee to exile for some time. He is now back into the country after the death of the former president. He wants to run for the Nigerian presidency in the next elections.

Corruption in Sierra Leone is also endemic. It’s in fact a way of life in most, if not all, African countries. Despite a plethora of problems and severe criticism, some of them warranted, some not, Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) ( has scored some successes over the years since it was founded in 2000. But a lot more needs to be done...with the help of the international community as Nuhu said. Many of the African business and political elites store their loot outside Africa. That loot should be sent back to the people of Africa, the real owners.