To Fight Corruption, Africa Must Explore Innovative Solutions
28 Mar 2016 by Njoya Tikum
Over the past 15 years, almost every African country - some willingly, others under duress - has embarked on wide-ranging reforms aimed at strengthening state accountability and eradicating corruption.
But despite these efforts, corruption persists, as evidenced by multiple indices. Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which estimates perceived levels of public sector corruption based on expert opinion, reveals that 40 out Sub-Saharan Africa’s 46 States have a “serious problem” with corruption”. The continent’s powerhouses such as Nigeria and South Africa are among them, while Somalia tops the ranking as the world’s most corrupt country.
States do not fare any better with their own publics. A 2011-2013 Afrobarometer survey which consulted 51,000 people in 34 African countries, found the continent’s population overwhelmingly skeptical about national anti-corruption measures. 56 percent of respondents stated their country did a "fairly bad” or “very bad" job countering corruption, while only 35 percent said their governments had done “well” or “very well”.
The trust deficit between the state and the public is worsened when Anti-Corruption Agencies are seen as set up in response to external pressure, and kept deliberately weak with a lack of qualified personnel and material resources, and funded at the Executive’s discretion instead of allocation through transparent national budgetary processes.
How does Africa navigate itself out of this quagmire?
To win the battle against corruption, and ensure a solid foundation for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063, Africa must move beyond setting up offices to pragmatism and action, exploring new and innovative solutions.
First, anti-corruption strategies must be comprehensive, and include governance innovations such as open data, transparency and accountability in business, procurement, construction, etc. Anti-corruption initiatives must be an integral part of national development plans with the requisite resources and benchmarks for assessing progress.
Second, African governments should make use of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) and social accountability tools. Several web-based applications have been developed that provide easy-to-use electronic platforms for citizen engagement. An example is the Ushahidi platform used to collect and map reports of violence through SMS and email created in the aftermath of Kenya’s contested 2007 presidential election, and subsequently used to map post-disaster data in several countries including Haiti and Chile. Similar platforms could be used to report instances of corruption in real time, and for anti-corruption agencies and integrity institutions to respond in an open and transparent manner.
Third, civil society organizations (CSOs) must play a more robust role as the true watchdogs for the people. Given the need for CSOs to be autonomous and sensitive to local needs, it is unfortunate that, according to a 2013 USAID CSO Sustainability Index Report, almost 90 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s anti-corruption CSOs are funded by international donor agencies. The funding strategy must be adjusted, with national governments and other non-state actors taking up more responsibility for supporting anti-corruption CSOs.
Finally, partnerships between development partners and recipient countries should evolve to the point where the private sector, including banks and transnational companies, are held to the same standards as public institutions, helping to curb the corruption associated with illicit flows and tax avoidance.