Corruption is one of the most critical issues militating against Africa’s development agenda. It is a phenomenon that is extremely hostile to our collective desire for the realization of the Africa we want, as encapsulated in Agenda 2063. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria observes that Corruption is, without doubt, one of the greatest enemies of our time. It runs completely counter to our core and shared values of justice, the sense of fairness, law and order, equity and equality. Corruption is antithetical to our collective aspiration to achieve sustainable development.
With a bulging youth population unfortunately, resources meant to secure the future of our youth are often siphoned and misappropriated through sharp corrupt practices including Illicit Financial Flows out of Africa. According to a report by UNECA, during the period 2000-2015, net illicit financial flows between Africa and the rest of the world averaged US$73 billion (at 2016 prices) per year from trade misinvoicing alone. This by far, dwarfed the total amount that Africa received as official Development Assistance in that same period.
This parallel, is drawn to drive home the point that, If Africa address the issue of corruption, there would be more than enough resources to achieve our developmental aspirations. We will equally realize our regional integration programs including AfCFTA, free movement of persons and right of establishment.
Corruption has further exacerbated the paradox of a naturally endowed continent, but poor citizenry, as wealth which could otherwise have been invested in the continent are transferred to other parts of the globe, thereby deepening further, the cycle of poverty. Corruption is indeed one of the major impediments to structural transformation in Africa.
With the close links between corruption and poor governance in mind, it is no wonder that concrete national plans and programs are relegated for short term benefits of corrupt individuals. Corruption is not only limited to those in the public sector but cuts across all facets of the African society, ranging from high-level political graft on the scale of millions of dollars to low level petty bribes. Therefore, we must not relent in reversing that ugly tide.
We must all work consciously to change the narrative of Africa being widely considered among the world’s most corrupt region, a factor seen as contributing to the stunted development of many African States. We must continue to support the significant strides made by the AU, in putting in place legal policy frameworks, notably the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC).
It is therefore necessary, at this point, to underscore the need to popularize this convention, by calling on those member states who are yet to sign up to this legal instrument, to do so, in the best interest of the continent. As stated by President Muhammadu Buhari in his capacity as the Champion of AU theme on Anti-corruption and I quote;
“To build a sustainable future that works for everyone, African leaders must work relentlessly to ensure that no one is left behind based on a sense of desperation and frustration that questions the globally acclaimed benefits of technology, trade, inclusive growth and development and globalization. Corruption is a denial of Human Rights. It is a damaging phenomenon on the Rights to Developments.”
To win the fight against corruption, therefore, we must have a change of mindset. Changing the state of play requires a greater awareness as a means to instil better and more transparent values in, the citizenry especially our youth. It is in recognition of this fact and the centrality of the youth in this endeavour that the Nigerian Government will host in collaboration with the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption and AU Commission- Department of Political Affairs to host the African youth congress against corruption in Abuja. The main purpose of the youth rally is to further create awareness about the ills of corruption on the continent and most importantly, to incorporate in the youth, as major agents of change, the fight against the hydra-headed monster of corruption.
Nigeria as champion of the 2018 theme remains resolutely committed to defeat corruption. Nigeria through the AU has prioritized curbing Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), developing common African position on asset recovery and return as well as strengthening National Anticorruption Agencies (NACA) and Judicial systems.
I must however caution that, fighting corruption is not going to be a straight forward task given and that corruption does fight back. We should not be distracted from pushing forward our common goal as it is to eradicate corruption in the best interest of Africa and to build a prosperous continent.
Before concluding, I would like to quote one of the great sons of Africa; Kwame Nkurumah of the Republic of Ghana and of blessed memory where he said:
“The task ahead is great indeed, and heavy is the responsibility; and yet it is a noble and glorious challenge - a challenge which calls for the courage to dream, the courage to believe, the courage to dare, the courage to do, the courage to envision, the courage to fight, the courage to work, the courage to achieve - to achieve the highest excellence and the fullest greatness of man.”
Africa must be courageous and bold to instil zero tolerance for corruption in all endeavours. We must transition from deep corruption to a more transparent and accountable society. We all agree that the most sustainable pathway for impact in the fight against corruption rests on the pillars of PREVENTION, Enforcement, Public Engagement and Behavioural Change and Asset Recovery. African Youth and Women must remain in the vanguard of wining this battle.
Historically, when our joint resolve is strong, Africa wins its battles and wars!! Africa won the fight against apartheid, Africa defeated colonialism and Africa can win the fight against corruption.
By H.E.Bankole Adeoye,
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Nigeria to Ethiopia and the AU.