Prevention and Fighting Corruption in Africa


Corruption is a complex and global phenomenon that causes poverty, obstructs development, and drives away investment. According to the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, corruption is the misuse of public power for private profit. Corruption refers to the degree to which business transactions involve questionable payments or unexpected illegitimate payments to obtain permits, licenses, loans, or other government services needed to conduct business in a country. This scourge has various causes and flows from poor public governance, weakness in the rule of law, and excessive red tape, which creates the temptation to pay a bribe to cut through the tape. Wherever it is present, corruption involves public officials, business managers, and private citizens.

Prior research has shown that the issue of corruption has gained a prominent place on the global agenda since the mid-1990s. The creation of organizations that can promote models of stemming corruption, especially in developing countries where governmental corruption is widespread, has gained a prominent place on the global agenda. International organizations have adopted conventions requiring that their members enact laws prohibiting bribery and extortion. For example, the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) provides a global legal framework for combating corruption. International financial agencies, like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, announced programs aimed at ensuring fair and open contracting for their projects and stopping misappropriation by government officials. Regularly, Transparency International (TI) conducts analysis and advocacy through chapters in many nations. Multinational corporations have also promulgated model codes of behavior and implemented anti-bribery programs. Media report instances of corruption in high places virtually every day often at their great risk. Finally, most nations have enacted and elaborated anti-corruption laws, strategies, and programs.

According to the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), sound economic and corporate governance, political governance, peace, and security are four necessary conditions for development in Africa. NEPAD calls for the setting up of coordinated mechanisms to combat corruption in Africa. Emerging structures and processes such as the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) are designed to improve governance systems in Africa through the African Union mechanisms. At the sub-regional level, the international Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), based in Dakar (Senegal) has elaborated various initiatives to strengthen cooperation among its member states in areas such as the protection of the national economies, and financial and banking systems. In March 2009, countries in the West Africa sub-region have resolved to establish a network of national anti-corruption institutions in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Nigeria is the key driver of these sub-regional initiatives because of the country vast experience in the fight against corruption and money laundering.

Corruption takes many forms: it has a supply side (private bribers) and a demand side (public officials). Corruption can be subdivided into two main categories: grand corruption and petty corruption. Whereas grand corruption involves high-level officials with discretionary authority over government policies, petty corruption entails low-level officials who control access to basic services such as education, water, and electricity. Corruption generally involves public officials, business managers, and private citizens who engage in such illegal acts as embezzlement of public funds, trade in influence, and bribery.

In order to tackle this multifaceted problem and understand how near-term priorities fit into long-term approaches, some scholars advised the adoption of the following four types of measures: (a) enforcement, (b) prevention, (c) institutional reforms, and (d) cultural changes. In the third edition of the UN Anti-Corruption Toolkit (2004), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) subdivided these measures into eight pillars of integrity. In other words, a successful fight against corruption depends on a multidimensional strategy with elements (from the government, civil society, and private sector) mutually supportive.

Many researchers agreed that a multi-pronged approach involving both proactive and reactive measures offers the best chance of bringing corruption under control. Some scholars argued, for example, that the consequences of corruption can be minimized if the government has an effective multidimensional anti-corruption strategy and implements it impartially. They highlighted the cases of Singapore (with its Prevention of Corruption Act and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau) and Hong Kong (with its Prevention of Bribery Ordinance and the Independent Commission against Corruption) as two best practices in Asian city-states because of the effectiveness of their anti-corruption strategies.

An excellent case study to read...
Fighting Corruption in Africa: The Nigerian Experience (an electronic version "In the Media" menu and list of recent articles menu):
See also the goPRS project (A Prevention Corruption Tool for Public Procurement Regulatory Bodies).

Other useful references include:


EFCC. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Establishment Act, 2004. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from http://www.efccnigeria.org/ .

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (2009).
Deepening the Judiciary Effectiveness in Combating Corruption.
Retrieved April 24, 2009, from http://www.uneca.org/ .

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2009).
Information Technology Catalogue of Services.
Retrieved April 24, 2009, from http://www.unodc.org/information-and-communications-technology/its-cos-web.pdf.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2009). Government Office Infrastructure and Data Centre Model (goIDM).
Retrieved July 03, 2009, from
http://goidm.unodc.org/.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2007).
Government Office Case Management System (goCASE)
. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from http://gocase.unodc.org/.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2006).
Government Office Anti-Money Laundering System (goAML)
. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from http://goaml.unodc.org/.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2005).
The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).
Retrieved April 24, 2009, from http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC/index.html.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2004).
The Global Programme against Corruption. UN Anti-Corruption Toolkit (3rd edition).
Retrieved April 24, 2009, from http://www.unodc.org/.