Corruption is a global challenge that stems from the human DNA in one way or another. Moral pervasion cuts across the entire spectrum of social systems. The human mindset is by default skewed towards instant gratification. Our fundamental convictions repel the notion of toiling. In this case, most people end up doing whatever it takes to attain their aspirations within their predetermined timelines and according to their grand scheme of things no matter the cost. Given the opportunity to plunder without fear of retribution, very few will take the long and uncertain virtuous route towards gratification.
Corruption is a vice derailing Africa’s economic growth and development. Ordinary citizens bear the brunt of corruption in the form of poor healthcare services, poor quality education, poor infrastructure, inefficient public institutions, inefficient service delivery, high levels of poverty and insecurity, lack of basic needs such as food and proper housing, judicial misconduct and unprecedented levels impunity.
Most Africans believe corruption is on the rise and that governments are failing in the fight against graft. According to Transparency International, bribery affects more than one in five Africans and hurts the poor the most. Most Africans have similar sentiments towards corruption with most being of the opinion that it is high time for the continent to reign in on this depravity and decisively deliver the continent from its shackles
The African Union kicked off 2018 with an anti-corruption campaign during the 30th Assembly of Heads of States and Governments of the AU. Fighting corruption across the continent was the main goal. 2018 was dubbed “Africa Anti-Corruption Year”. Corruption costs African countries an estimated 25% of its combined national income. During an interview with Reuters in 2016, Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman stated that Kenya loses about $6 billion to corruption every year. To put this figure in to perspective, this amount is almost twice the amount used to build Kenya’s 472km (293 mile) Standard Gauge Railway project and almost twenty times the amount ($360 million) used to construct Thika Super Highway. Kenya is a country that has come a long way in establishing checks and balances hence the above example may not come anywhere near the reality in resource-rich fragile states in Africa.
Poor governance breeds corruption. Investor confidence becomes shaken and the trust of public institutions gets dented. The lack of accountability and prosecutions do little to deter perpetrators of corruption. Strong institutions that are immune to compromise can bring about desired change. An economic paradox exists in Africa where economic growth and development corresponds to increasing socio-economic inequalities. This mismatch leads to a scenario whereby there are thriving businesses on the continent while at the same time a majority of the population is living in abject poverty.
If history is anything to go by, the fight against corruption goes beyond introducing legal and institutional frameworks alone. Corruption can morph, it can reappear, it can be resistant to change and it can hide behind the curtains of benevolence. Dictators and their cohorts can purport to be advocates of socio-economic progress. In most cases, this is just a façade and real progress can be attained without them at the helm.
There is need for concerted effort across the continent to look beyond convention and delve deeper into the building blocks of our being. Corruption starts in the mind but is a product of our DNA. Frameworks instituted to deal with this vice need to be complimented with a narrative that will compel future generations to refrain from corruption through facilitating a paradigm shift that will eventually become the norm. To combat corruption, Africa’s DNA needs to change.