Africa Poster Continent for Corruption and Poverty?

Published on 27th August 2019

Africa's self-destructive, centuries-old-mental-pathology is well known. For decades self-serving,  money interests in Africa and throughout the Industrial West, have religiously given lip service to curbing corruption throughout Africa, while at the same time knowingly participating in Africa's corruption and often times, facilitating Africa's corruption to line their own pockets. The following quoted except, is taken from a well written commentary that says it all.

"Africa's hyped economic rising has always been drowning in Africa's understated corruption and poverty. Arguably, corruption in Africa has now morphed in to a form of Cannibalism Corruption. In Africa corruption is not simply an act of giving or receiving a bribe; it is a form of “primitive accumulation” or “accumulation by dispossession” that hollows out institutions and causes much misery.

The effect of this metaphorising of corruption as a form of Cannibalism put Africa's pandemic corruption into sharp focus so that it has tangible contours and its peaks and troughs, are clearly accentuated. Clearly, corruption is a loaded term that can be unpacked extensively. But the single and most broadly used definition of corruption is articulated by Jakob Svensson as follows: “The misuse of public office for private gain.”

Most of the literature available on corruption engages the problem from the level of its outcomes – in other words, on its results, i.e.  “private gain”. But there seems to be little effort at trying to analyse the root causes. Given the widespread nature of corruption, and given that it has no definitive social differentiators like class, income, education level or geographical region, it follows that the possible causes are either intrinsic (related to the nature of man or woman) or systemic (attributable to the prevailing socio-political and economic environment). However, looking at all the scholarly definitions of corruption, what we witness in Africa defies any of those classifications completely.

Nigeria’s Sani Abacha did not benignly “misuse public office for private gain”; he swept the treasury coffers clean. He decimated the public office. Kenya’s president from 1978 to 2002, Daniel arap Moi, and his coterie of ministers did not “quid pro quo, influence or distort”; they ingested entire institutions. The same goes for the successive administrations of Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta. Their voracious troops of army ants have left no tree standing, literally. No tree in the forest was considered too sacred to spare. Their appetite is unlimited. Nothing was/is too big or too small, not the strategic grain reserve, not the sports kitties (one of the few remaining routes out of poverty), not even programmes like the Youth Fund, the National Youth Service or Kazi kwa Vijana. (As a resident of Eastlands I can attest that these programmes had a direct impact on the ground, with all the associated positive results of wealth redistribution e.g. drastic drops in crime, increase in economic activity, rise in optimism.)

None of this is corruption, not by a mile. It is Institutional Cannibalism. Given that it is our own, our best and brightest sons and daughters who are cannibalising our own institutions, I will go further and describe it as a socio-pathological condition that I am calling autosarcophagy – an amalgam in Greek of “eating one’s own flesh.”

By Arkanuddin Yasin

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