Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Kenya in a distant 136th place. That low ranking confirms the sentiment often encountered in Nairobi: corruption is widespread in many aspects of life, from bribing a policeman to avoid charges for alleged traffic violations to graft at the highest levels of government, as poignantly described by a British journalist Michela Wrong in her book about Kenyan whistleblower John Githongo, It’s Our Turn to Eat.
Not surprisingly, many segments of the Kenyan society are fed up with the status quo and ready for change. That includes many companies in the private sector that see their growth potential and competitiveness stifled by the highly corrupt environment. Such companies are not waiting for the government to clean up its act and instead are taking the initiative to limit corruption through setting up or strengthening internal compliance procedures.
Zimbabwean economist Daniel Ndlela shares his thoughts on economic recovery as part of a conference hosted by the Southern Africa Political Economy Series Trust and the National Endowment for Democracy in May 2014. The conference, entitled “Zimbabwe Going Forward” featured Zimbabwean think tanks, private sector representatives, government and civil society. (l-r: Kupukile Mlambo, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Ndlela, and Abdulwahab Alkebsi, Regional Director for Africa, the Center for International Private Enterprise).
While 50 African heads of state prepared to visit Washington for the U.S.-Africa summit held earlier this month, one president who wasn’t invited decided to throw a party of his own. In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe invited dignitaries and government officials to the State House on July 31 to mark the one year anniversary of his party’s victory over the opposition in national elections whose legitimacy was questioned by domestic and foreign observers alike.
The 90-year-old Mugabe, restricted from entering the United States due to targeted travel and financial sanctions, welcomed government friends to his official residence in Harare with a banquet and live music. Unfortunately, given Zimbabwe’s economic outlook, throwing a party is the last thing the President should be doing.
The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit concluded last week and the delegations have returned home, but conversation about U.S. engagement with Africa still continues in DC. Two weeks ago, on the eve of the summit, CIPE and Freedom House initiated a dialogue on advancing political and economic freedom in Africa and on Wednesday, CIPE and the Society for International Development-Washington, DC Chapter concluded summit events with a discussion on African civil society and its sustainability by bringing together civil society practitioners. The discussion revolved around possible solutions to two main issues civil society is facing in the developing world: a dependency on donor funding and draconian laws restricting civil society.
The panelists included: Lars Benson, Senior Program Officer for Africa at CIPE, Jeremy Meadows, Senior Democracy Specialist for Bureau for Africa at USAID, and Natalie Ross, Program Officer for the Aga Khan Foundation, USA. The discussion was moderated by Richard O’Sullivan, co-chair for the SID-Washington Civil Society Workgroup.
Last week Washington hosted nearly 50 African heads of state at the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Countless meetings and conversations that took place not just among government officials but businesses, international organizations, and non-profits (including CIPE and Freedom House) brought Africa into the spotlight. Yet the most important aspect of the Summit is still ahead: what did we learn and how can this knowledge guide the way forward?
One of the most informative outcomes of the Summit to me was the launch of a report Africa and the United States: A defining relationship of the 21st century at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Presidential Plenary. The report was jointly produces by the U.S. Chamber and Investec Asset Management (IAM), a global investment management firm founded in 1991 in South Africa. Hendrik du Toit, Investec’s CEO, unveiled the report and discussed its findings with a panel of corporate leaders.
On April 7, 2012, entrepreneur and longtime women’s right activist Joyce Banda became Malawi’s first female president – and only second on the African continent – after the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika propelled her from the vice presidency to the country’s highest office. In 2014, she placed 40th on the Forbes list of 100 Women Who Lead the World.
What path led her to that meteoric rise and how did she manage to capitalize on her strengths as a woman leader to both overcome personal challenges and face the challenges in front of her country? Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Banda for a candid interview where she talked about her story and its lessons for aspiring women leaders in Africa and around the world.
Before entering politics in 1999 to run for Parliament, Banda started a number of successful businesses and in 1990 founded the National Association of Business Women (NABW). With CIPE support, the organization grew to more than 15,000 members and made an important difference in the lives of women entrepreneurs in Malawi.
What inspired her to become active in business and then in politics? “In 1981, I walked out on an abusive marriage and looking back it became very clear to me that what had gone wrong is that I hadn’t been economically empowered. So I decided to set myself on a path that would ensure that abuse doesn’t happen again,” she said.
Despite its lingering problems, South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy provides many valuable lessons.
This week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit focuses on the topic of “Investing in the Next Generation.” The summit aims to explore issues of economic inclusiveness, democratic development and “creating an enabling environment for the next generation.”
This discussion is especially pertinent in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, when many in developing countries have begun to lose faith in the wisdom of democratic governance and market-based economic reforms. The rise of Chinese and Russian authoritarianism coupled with robust economic growth in those countries provides a seemingly plausible alternative for lifting millions out of poverty while still allowing autocrats to retain a tight grasp on power.
The Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), a South African think tank and CIPE partner, examined the post-apartheid experience of South Africa’s transition to market economy and a vibrant democracy in a recently released report entitled “South Africa and the Pursuit of Inclusive Growth.”
As part of a larger initiative known as the “Democracy Consensus”, CDE’s research shows that democracy is a viable path not only for fostering inclusive economic growth in the short- to medium-term, but also laying the foundations for sound institutions that lead to long-term stability and prosperity.
Yesterday was the first day of the inaugural U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC. Representatives from CIPE’s partners in Africa – including association and chamber leaders from CIPE’s KnowHow mentorship program – in addition to 200 other government, private sector, and civil society leaders from Africa attended the summit’s Civil Society Forum.
With seven of the world’s fastest growing economies and a fast-rising middle-class, no one can doubt the potential for economic prosperity in Africa. What’s questionable, however, is how African nations will achieve this prosperity. And the answer should be through inclusive democracies. Global initiatives like the Open Government Partnerships are already building momentum towards open governments that empower citizens in Africa.
Moreover, as Secretary Kerry and Vice President Biden noted in their remarks yesterday, sustainable economic growth can only come from accountable and transparent societies that address corruption. For more African nations to take advantage of opportunities and accelerate growth, governments, civil society, and the business community must confront corruption.
This is where CIPE’s partners in Africa can come into play. Situated in between the private sector and government, business associations and chambers of commerce can best represent the private sector to improve governance and eliminate corrupt practices that impede market development. The Kenya Association of Manufacturers, for instance, partnered with CIPE and Global Integrity to engage relevant stakeholders in developing recommendations for the local governments to improve service delivery and minimize corruption.
It will be interesting to see what happens next after these high-level business, government, and civil society leaders return to their home countries. Certainly, going beyond rhetoric will be a requirement to systematically tackle corruption and help countries meet their potential.
Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.