The theme for this year’s Africa Union (AU) Day commemoration, ‘Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation’ is apt and timely. The Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) fully endorses the AU’s decision to declare 2018 as African anti-corruption year. While this shows a new direction and impetus to fighting corruption, concrete steps are required to address rising public official corruption in member countries.
After 55 years, the dream for a developed and prosperous continent is being hampered by corruption. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Africa loses $148 billion annually to corruption. Again, the Thabo Mbeki report on Illicit Financial Flow estimates that the continent loses more than $50 billion annually through these activities. As a result, African nations, including Ghana, continue to rely heavily on foreign aid to develop; majority of the continent’s population are living in poverty; unemployment is on the rise thereby forcing our youth to embark on precarious journeys with the hope of seeking greener pastures in Europe and the Americas, while access to basic social services like water, education and health services persistently remain a challenge.
Findings from Afrobarometer surveys across Africa indicate that there is a grand swell of public dislike against corruption and citizens are unconvinced about the commitment of their leaders to fight the canker. The Round 6 Afrobarometer Survey (2014/2015) conducted across 36 surveyed African countries indicate that a majority (55%) of Africans, 23 of 36 surveyed countries say corruption increased “somewhat” or “a lot” over the previous year, while only about one in three Africans (31%) say their governments are handling corruption “fairly well” or “very well.”
Meanwhile, in Ghana, citizens believe that corrupt officials must be brought to justice. The recent Round 7 Afrobarometer Survey (2017) found that most Ghanaians support the fight against corruption, with majority (64%) calling for the prosecution of corrupt officials.
To advance the AU’s agenda of freeing the continent from corruption, the CDD-Ghana recommends the following measures.
First, the AU must enforce member countries’ compliance with its plethora of legal and regulatory frameworks like the Convention on Preventing and Combating Crime (2003), designed to tackle incidents of corruption among member states. The Convention highlights the need for member states to promote, strengthen mechanisms and harmonize policies and legislations between state parties to prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption and related offences in the public and private sectors.
Second, African leaders must recognize the media as an important tool to exposing corruption and abuse of power, and allow practitioners to fully carry out their mandate. Unfortunately, press freedom is on a consistent decline on the continent as countries in Africa were among the lowest ranked nations on the 2018 World Press Freedom Index. It is therefore imperative for African leaders to jealously protect the freedom and independence of the press, if, indeed, they are committed to ending corruption on the continent.
Third, citizens of AU member countries must feel empowered to take action and be involved in this fight to free the continent from corruption. CDD-Ghana believes that a well-informed society is as equally important as a free press, if we are to effectively prevent corruption and promote good governance. In the Round 6 Afrobarometer Survey, the most commonly cited reasons for why people do not report corruption incidents are fear of the consequences (34%) and the expectation that nothing would be done (14%). For us to make any real and lasting impact, we need to create the more enabling spaces for active citizen participation.
In conclusion, the AU and Ghana long-term agenda for the socio-economic transformation cannot be achieved if the billions of dollars lost each year through corruption is not curtailed. It is imperative for our leaders to focus on building a sustainable path to end corrupt practices to promote good governance, accountability and higher levels of transparency at all levels in our governance and social structures.
For more information, please contact:
Efua Idan Atadja
CDD-Ghana Communications Officer