Tag Archives: Africa

Quiet Corruption

“Quiet corruption” – the failure of public servants to deliver goods or services paid for by governments – is pervasive and widespread across Africa and is having a disproportionate effect on the poor, with long-term consequences for development, according to a new report from the World Bank.

This is according to the World Bank’s newly released Africa Development Indicators. Read more in the press release on the World Bank website or check out the report itself.

Overall, the report is interesting in that it shows that corruption is not just about bribery (exchange of money in brown envelopes), its much more complex than that. Report visual – “quiet corruption” as the bottom [larger] part of the iceberg hidden below the water level.

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Resource Curse in Action

There are many ways of making money. One of them is rigging the system in your own favor. The son of Equatorial Guinea’s ruler has perfected the approach in his own back yard.

…the president’s son and agriculture minister has transferred at least $73m (£44m)into America to pay for a $35m Malibu mansion and private jet. Teodoro Obiang Nguema junior is said to have imposed a tax on timber payable not to the national treasury but directly to him.

Oil has certainly fueled economic growth in the country and in GDP per capita terms the country is one of the richest in the world (more than $30,000 according to the World Bank which is higher than Spain, Italy, Greece, South Korea and others.)

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Tea time in Kenya

When it comes to global agriculture, you can taste a hint of the African continent’s powerhouse potential in every sip of tea. Kenya is the world’s largest producer of black tea; through its port city of Mombasa flow Kenya’s and almost all the rest of East Africa’s tea. Mombasa’s vast dominance of worldwide tea exports puts it on par with the New York City Mercantile Exchange, Chicago’s Board of Trade, or London’s Metal Exchange. It’s a place where global benchmark prices are set. Kenya’s resilience as a global market for tea is reflected in the fact that even in today’s global recession Kenya’s tea growers were able to capture record revenue for their crops.

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Knowing is half the battle

When it comes to Nigeria’s vast informal sector, Nigerian public officials can be astonishingly candid. The executive director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), David Adelugba, said at a recent press conference that most of the Nigerian products sold outside the country are not officially exported out of the country.

“Most of the trade done in the export sector are done through the informal means and this affects the level of development in the sector because the government does not have a record to know how the sector is thriving and how much it can contribute to the nation’s development,” Mr. Adelugba said. (“The numbers don’t add up,” 234Next.com, October 21, 2009)

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Exporting Bribery

A few years ago, while in Tanzania, I was interested to hear (from journalists that come from various countries in East Africa) that one of the main reasons for widespread corruption in Africa is the international community – both multilateral development agencies and multinational corporations.  At the same time some lauded the efforts of Chinese companies that were quite active in a variety of infrastructure projects.

Perceptions matter.  But they can also be misleading.

According to the latest Bribe Payers Index, developed by Transparency International, out of major global economies, companies from BRIC countries and Mexico are most likely to bribe when engaging in business operations in other countries.

In revealing that companies from Russia, China, and India are the bottom feeders of the Bribe Payers Index, TI report also highlights the evident lack of knowledge of the OECD Anti-Bribery convention in many of the OECD companies (at the senior executive level).  Still, despite the implementation gaps, the OECD countries and companies have made notable progress in becoming more transparent over the past few years, while companies from Russia, China, and India have much work to do to catch up.  Their countries’ signing of the OEC anti-bribery convention can certainly help in bringing more transparency to business operations.

Back to Tanzania and its neighbors.  Earlier this year, Chinese President went on small tour of East Africa, touting new aid packages and investments.  While such capital infusions are tempting, especially as the booming trade between China and African countries is helping the continent weather the economic storm, African governments, business community, and citizens more broadly must not forget of the strings attached – bribery that comes with it.  And, considering all the long term developmental costs of corruption that African countries know first hand, such bribery is something to worry about.

The dark side of equality

That we are all equally human, we should all have equal rights of some sort, the argument goes; equal opportunity, equal outcomes, equal by some measure. Michaela Wrong’s It’s Our Turn to Eat provides a living, detailed, vibrant story of human beings conspiring to deny equal rights for all – embodied by Kenya’s corrupt politicians and the inherited system of political patronage at the heart of Kenya’s recent electoral violence. This story was the subject of Monday’s event hosted by the Cato Institute, featuring Wrong, with comments by the former Vice Chairman and Co-Founder of Transparency International, Frank Vogl.

The story provided harrowing testimony to human equality, by reminding us that people of all races are equally capable of extraordinary courage, and extraordinary crime.

“John Githongo sees a certain racism in the lower standards for governance that the international donor community holds for African governments, and I have come to agree with him,” Wrong said. Githongo is the main protagonist of It’s Our Turn to Eat, and had been permanent secretary for governance and ethics in the Office of the President of Kenya. Appointed by the newly and democratically elected President Mwai Kibaki in 2002, Githongo was effectively Kenya’s first anti-corruption czar. The book tells the story of the immediate resistance Githongo encountered as the new government simply took the old system of ethnic patronage inherited from British colonizers and turned it to favor their own ethnic group that had been locked out of power, first under the British and again under Kenya’s first two presidents, Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi.

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Land of the not-quite-free

Sometimes the worst form of violence doesn’t reveal itself until the bullets stop flying. Fatu Bonah had helped support her family for years on her husband’s fertile land. She was his second of four wives. There are two systems of marriage in Liberia; a civil marriage system administered through clergy who strictly recognize monogamy, and a customary system that allows men to take multiple wives. Under customary law, the additional wives become their husband’s legal property. Under the rule of dictator Charles Taylor, bullets flew often:

After watching the murder of her husband and his three other wives by Charles Taylor’s rebels, Fatu Bonah and her seven children fled into the dense forest to hide. “The rebels burned down our home and when I returned my in-laws had taken the land,” she says. “I went to the town chief, who tried to resolve it, but the family refused, saying they had already taken over the land.” (From the Inter Press Service News Agency)

In a land founded by freed slaves, and where the current president’s nickname is “The Iron Lady,” the women are accustomed to fighting for freedom, in all its forms. The same story reports that in 2003 the Association of the Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) successully advocated for reforms recognizing inheritance rights for all wives and their children in situations like Bonah’s. One estimate, cited in the article, counts one third of Liberia’s 3.5 million people as disinherited women and children.

Today, AFELL continues to support those millions by tracking the new law’s implementation, as it encounters resistance from patriarchal institutions that are entrenched, yet younger than their beneficiaries typically admit:

“What our work is now is to bring this law back to the people,” says Deweh Gray, AFELL’s determined president. “The challenges are great because people had this life for over a century and getting them to, especially the male folks, to accept this change, what they see as a radical change in their lives is a difficult thing. ”

By taking on these political, social, and cultural battles AFELL is building gender-neutral institutions for property as only locally based organizations can. Property rights institutions literally double their leavening effect upon entrepreneurs, when they do not exclude half the human race. Such institutions are key to keeping the bullets from flying as they once did, and sometimes still do.