As we work towards the AfCFTA, we must ensure that there is less transboundary corruption within Africa
In a speech to the 33rd Session of the Executive Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the African Union in Nouakchott, Mauritania, ECA’s Executive Secretary Vera Songwe warned against the impact of corruption on Africa’s development.
“We need to be aware that Africa will not be able to seize the transformation opportunities highlighted by regional and global development frameworks if this problem persists,” Ms Songwe said, explaining that although it is difficult to measure precisely the cost of corruption, recent estimates place it at $1500 to 2000 billion a year, i.e. 2% of the world’s GDP.
Experts fear that corruption could be having even higher costs at the less visible social level and on women: “Corruption in public services also affects the quality of social services. In the poorest countries, half of the people pay bribes to access basic services such as education, health or water,” she regretted.
In Africa, public expenses, women’s rights, the energy sector and intellectual property rights are among the areas suffering from the most worrying consequences.
“Corruption affects more than 60% of public procurement in Africa and increases the cost of contracts by 20 to 30%. In a world characterized by limited resources, this is an unfortunate cost for investments that are greatly needed. We cannot afford such losses anymore,” she added.
In addition to corruption within countries, there is also a growing need to take into account corruption between countries and regions. According to an ECA’s report, pdf Measuring corruption in Africa: the international dimension matters (1.65 MB) , there have been at least 1080 cases of transboundary corruption in Africa between 1995 and 2014, 99.5% of which involved non-African companies and were mostly related to fiscal evasion issues.
“As we work towards the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), we must ensure that there is less transboundary corruption within Africa,” Ms Songwe added, hoping that “by the time we get to Agenda 2030 and certainly Agenda 2063, corruption will no longer be Africa’s cancer”.
ECA’s Executive Secretary Vera Songwe is currently taking part in the African Union’s 31st Summit in Nouakchott. This event will be taking place on 25 June to 2 July under the theme “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”.
On 30 June in Nouakchott, Ms Songwe launched the #HonestService Public Service Delivery Campaign, which aims to put forward public and service workers who conduct themselves in a fair, honest and upfront manner in their interactions with customers and citizens, to provide an alternative approach to the corruption narrative on Africa.
The campaign, which will involve young people across the Continent, will gather information emanating from a positive discussion that encourages average African citizens, who engage with public services on a daily basis, to put forward exemplary public service they encounter in their quest for healthcare, education, employment opportunities and many other dimensions of their lives.
“The widespread narrative about corruption in African public services has inadvertently failed to acknowledge performant public servants who, on the contrary, have been serving their countries with integrity, upholding the public service ethics of fairness, equity and integrity, and have avoided falling into the corruption trap,” said Ms Songwe in the lead up to the launch.
“Such individuals are however, critical in making Africa work and in turning the wheels of Africa’s progress,” she added.
Estimates indicate that in 2015, up to 22 per cent of the population in Africa who interacted with a public service had to pay a bribe, mostly to the police and the courts.
With public service being one of the most active and visible connecting links between the State and the people, widespread corruption could have a significant public impact on governments’ perception.
The campaign is social-media driven and will last six months from July to December 2018. Present at the launch were Lilia Hachem Naas, Director of the ECA Office for North Africa; Adam El Hiraika, Director of the ECA Macroeconomic Division; Sid’Ahmed Bouh, Advisor to the Minister of Finance of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania; and Sidi Mohamed Ould Mohamed El Mamy, Deputy Secretary General of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Mauritania.