Ayo Johnson is a contributing blogger for Worldfocus. He writes about how West African presidents are taking the lead in the fight against corruption.
The presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana are raising the bar for the continent by declaring publicly their commitment to fight corruption.
The Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma became the first head of state to declare his assets to the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia went one step further, offering financial incentives for whistleblowers to expose corrupt officials. The Ghanaian President John Atta-Mills has refused to accept gifts from anyone.
All three presidents have sent the vitally important message: corruption will not be accepted in any form.
The issue of corruption has long been a cancer and a shameful scourge on the African continent. It is estimated that corruption cost the African continent over $150 billion a year. That is money that could have been spent on health education and building up the rural economy.
As awareness of issues surrounding corruption has intensified in the world, some African nations like Sierra Leone are now beginning to change their laws to make it harder for corrupt officials to stash stolen money in foreign banks.
The presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana have shown great courage and exemplary leadership by leading the fight against corruption for the rest of Africa to follow.
Developed nations in the West now have a positive role to play, in promoting good governance and monitoring poorer economies.
– Ayo Johnson
An editorial in Sierra Leone’s Daily Mail echos that sentiment.
‘Corruption in Africa ranges from high-level political graft on the scale of millions of dollars to low-level bribes to police officers or customs officials. In as much as political graft imposes the largest direct financial cost on country, petty bribes have a corrosive effect on basic institutions and undermine public trust in the government…. Africans must demand transparency and accountability in government. Independent Corruption watchdogs free from government control and influence must be established to investigate, prosecute and severely punish officials who engage in corrupt practices. The people should be given access to state revenue statistics in all its form through publication in local media. We must take control of our country’s finances and end this era of corruption and mismanagement of our wealth and resources.
With the recent discovery of oil in Sierra Leone, investors are pouring into the country looking to get a piece of the liquid gold. This article from the Daily Nation reports on the oil discovery and its link to corruption.
Sierra Leone’s anti-corruption commissioner has a simple message for foreign investors coming to his country for its mines and oil — offer bribes and you could find yourself in prison….The former human rights and insurance lawyer said his commission would have no compunction about prosecuting corrupt foreign investors in court in the capital Freetown, and that could land them in a Sierra Leonean prison.
Still, anti-corruption efforts face serious challenges in Africa. Among them, as Forbes columnist John Hooker argues, are traditional practices that worked well in different settings in many non-Western countries.
In a traditional village context, African leaders earned respect by judiciously bestowing gifts and favors on their subjects. That wasn’t simply a patronage system; it was also a form of rational redistribution. The chief channeled wealth where it was most needed, increasing the community’s survival advantage. With the coming of colonialism and Western-style institutions, men frequently left villages to take government jobs in the capital. They continued to use gifts to obtain influence, but they left behind the social context that had structured and guided the practice. Responsible generosity became irresponsible influence peddling.
Business executives operating in Africa today should try to earn the influence they need through responsible generosity. They might build infrastructure or schools instead of paying off officials or political parties. There–and in general–the key to avoiding corruption is to understand what makes the local business culture work, and to stick to practices that reinforce the system, not ones that tear it apart.
– Stephanie Savage