Experts and anti-corruption Chiefs to deliberate on corruption and the challenge of economic transformation in southern Africa

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Experts and anti-corruption Chiefs to deliberate on corruption and the challenge of economic transformation in southern Africa

Experts and anti-corruption Chiefs to deliberate on corruption and the challenge of economic transformation in southern Africa
Photo credit: Carly Learson | UNDP Liberia

The Economic Commission for Africa, Southern Africa Office (ECA-SA) in partnership with the African Union, Southern Africa Office (AU-SARO) are organising two major anti-corruption meetings from 18-22 June 2018 in Gaborone, Botswana.

The first is a regional conference on the theme “Corruption and the Challenge of Economic Transformation in Southern Africa” from 18-20 June 2018, and the second is a “Consultative Meeting of National Anti-Corruption Institutions in Southern Africa” from 21-22 June 2018 in Gaborone, Botswana.

The keynote address at the regional conference will be delivered by Professor Amos Sawyer, the former President of Liberia, and forty-five (45) academic papers will be presented at the conference. The conference will be attended by scholars, policymakers, research institutions, civil society organisations, regional and international institutions and the media.

The three-day event will be marked by robust and intense discussions on the problem of corruption including the scourge of illicit financial flows in Southern Africa, its sources and dimensions, the role of key actors in addressing it, and how national policies can be strengthened in addressing it.

The Consultative Meeting will be attended by heads of national anti-corruption institutions in Southern Africa, selected civil society organisations and experts, development partners and regional and international institutions.

The objective of the meeting is to provide a platform for anti-corruption institutions in the region to share knowledge and experiences, lessons learned, best practices, and discuss challenges, opportunities and prospects.

The meeting will consider establishing a network of national anti-corruption institutions in Southern Africa through which the anti-corruption institutions can effectively network, strengthen their capacity and enhance their fight against corruption in the region.

Corruption no doubt retards the socio-economic progress of Africa countries. It increases the cost of doing business, discourages potential investors, leads to misallocation of scarce resources, affects the delivery of social services, and promotes rent-seeking behaviour that is not productive in African countries.

Reflecting on this background, the AU 30th Assembly of Heads of State and Government held in Addis Ababa from 22nd – 29th of January 2018 launched 2018 as the African Anti-Corruption Year themed “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa's Transformation”.

Both meetings are expected to upscale the fight against corruption in Southern Africa by creating an increased knowledge base, understanding and policy options on the problem, and also strengthening the capacity of national anti-corruption institutions in the region.  

The meetings are being hosted by the Government of Botswana.


Project on “Corruption and the Challenge of Economic Transformation in Southern Africa”

Background and context

The African Union has designated 2018 as the year of anti-corruption. This is not only timely but of imperative necessity. Corruption has been the bane of development and a major challenge to the goal of economic transformation in Africa. While the Continent from the 1980s has developed economic development blueprints like the Lagos Plan of Action and the Final Act of Lagos, the African Alternative Framework to the Structural Adjustment Programme (ALF-SAP), the NEPAD Document, and currently Agenda 2063, with national development plans by the different African countries, however, the goal of economic transformation remains quite elusive. Issues of policy inconsistency, governance challenges, leadership inertia, and more importantly, corruption have stalled Africa’s efforts at radical economic transformation.

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in its African Governance Report IV (2016) noted that economic transformation in Africa is being undercut by compromised governance with corruption as a key variable. The report observed that weak governance breeds corruption and corruption is amongst the major costs and obstructions to economic transformation in Africa. In its varied forms (state capture, grand and petty corruption), there is mounting evidence labeling corruption as the root of gross hemorrhage and misallocation of resources in Africa. Reports of state capture in South Africa, political and electoral corruption in the DRC, Zimbabwe and Uganda, mining tender scandals in Guinea, the passport printing tender scandal in Kenya, the Cashgate scandal of Malawi (exchequer lost nearly $15.5 billion) and numerous shady mining deals in mineral and oil-rich DRC and Nigeria are just but a few African corruption incidences. Corruption has delayed growth and socioeconomic development via missed investment opportunity, retarded growth and worsening inequalities in Africa.

Corruption is heinous to development and economic transformation. It weakens the state and its capacity, encourages the misallocation or misapplication of scarce resources, promotes economic rent seeking, rather than productive activities and affects the delivery of social services. It is everything antithetical to socio-economic progress and development (Adejumobi, 2015).

There is a renewed commitment towards the goal of economic transformation in Africa. Backed by the African Union’s Agenda 2063, economic transformation is being progressively adopted by African countries to direct the deployment of factors of production to more productive sectors (industrialization). This shift is a growth strategy meant to accomplish the African dream for integration, inclusive development and prosperous communities in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this realm, Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s Heads of State and Government endorsed the pdf SADC Industrialization Strategy (2.34 MB) in 2015 – demonstrating their readiness to spearhead economic transformation in the subregion.

Economic transformation in Africa requires massive investment in human capital and infrastructure development. However, Africa’s investment has succumbed to corruption-induced illicit financial flows. Estimates by the African Union (AU) and the ECA in the 2016 Report of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa shows that, illicit financial flows in Africa over the past 50 years exceeds $1 trillion (an amount nearly matching the total ODA received by Africa over the same period). Additionally, approximately $50 billion is lost from Africa annually through illicit financial flows. These leakages are worrying given the reduced ODA directed to Africa, sluggish growth and disturbing poverty levels. Notably, research has shown that a surge in corruption by a point on a scale (calibrated 10 (very clean) to 0 (very corrupt)) reduces production by 4% of GDP and lowers net annual capital inflows by 0.5% of GDP. On account of corruption, the average African growth rate of 5% per year since 2000 remains below the 2-digit growth rate which transformed Asian economies. Unfortunately, the poor are afflicted disproportionately by corruption through the diversion of investment resources, limiting governments’ capacity to offer public services, propping inequality and injustice and undermining foreign aid and investment. Currently, about 40 percent of the population of the Continent still lives below the poverty line.

Noting the grievous welfare and economic effects of corruption, the United Nations enacted the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). At a regional level, AU has set in motion a number of initiatives meant to combat corruption (African Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), AU Advisory Board on Corruption (AUBC), the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG)). At sub-regional level, SADC introduced the pdf SADC Protocol against Corruption (31 KB) in 2001 as a way of preventing, identifying, penalizing and stamping out corruption. At national level, nearly all Southern African countries have established bodies, institutions and legislatures meant to eliminate corruption. Despite the concerted effort, corruption in Southern Africa has continued unabatedly.

A 2017 study on the effectiveness of anti-corruption agencies in Southern Africa conducted by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) noted that corruption in Southern Africa continues to worsen and is getting sophisticated too. OSISA reports that corruption in Southern Africa obstructs transparency in government revenues and in mining contracts, allows illicit exploitation of minerals and militarization of mining, the smuggling of minerals, political patronage and clientelism, as well as political and electoral corruption. Transparency International’s Perception Index of 2016 shows that Southern African countries have dropped in their corruption rankings. Against this background, average growth for SADC has continued to fall in the recent past (2.3% in 2015 and 1.4% in 2016). Also, the manufacturing sector which is tipped to be the engine behind economic transformation in SADC has been sliding since 2010 (4% in 2010 and 2.6% in 2016). This evidence confirms that endemic corruption in Southern Africa is linked to the poor showing of the economy thus more need to be done to spur economic transformation through addressing corruption.

The war against corruption in Southern Africa requires unified effort from RECs, Governments of Member States, Civil Society Organizations(CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the judiciary and legislature, corruption agencies, political parties, academia, research institutions and the private sector. As such, the two broad dual objectives of the two key activities are; to through the regional conference promote knowledge, policy debate and recommendations on addressing the problem of corruption in Southern Africa; and to through the meeting of national anti-corruption institutions promote the sharing of experiences, lessons, best practices and establish a Network of National Anti-Corruption Institutions in Southern Africa.