Corruption has long been a problem plaguing African countries across the continent. Afribarometer, which conducts public attitude surveys, recently published a report, ‘People & Corruption: Africa Survey 2015’ highlighting that many citizens in Africa feel that corruption is deteriorating in their countries.
It is therefore not surprising that we are starting to see some African presidents tackling corruption in a very proactive way and bringing past and present government officials who have allegedly committed offences in this regard to book. In the same respect, citizens are starting to vote into power those candidates that display a clear agenda to fight corruption, such as the newly appointed presidents of Nigeria and Tanzania.
Some recent examples of African presidents taking a heavy hand to corruption are listed below:
- In Tanzania, newly elected President John Magufuli has taken a very strong stance against corruption. Within one month of his inauguration, he has suspended the head of the Tanzanian Revenue Authority and five other tax officials pending an investigation into claims of corruption. (If you want to see the impact he has had on the national discourse, take a look at #WhatWouldMagufuliDo on Twitter for some humorous thoughts on saving money).
- A court in Senegal recently sentenced the former President’s son, Abdoulaye Wade to six years in prison for corruption, a decision supported by President Macky Sall. The President has also passed a number of positive anti-corruption reforms, including a law which requires elected officials to declare their assets.
- In Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari made it clear in his inauguration speech that corruption will not be tolerated. In October, Nigeria's former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke was arrested in London. She is believed to have embezzled billions of dollars from the state-owned oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Diezani was arrested by the UK National Crimes Agency, which also signals the willingness of other nations to assist in arresting those African government officials who have been accused of corruption. In contrast, under the previous regime President Goodluck Jonathan suspended the Central Bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, after Sanusi questioned an estimated $20bn shortfall in oil revenues to the treasury from the NNPC in a letter to the President.
- President Muhammadu Buhari has also ordered the arrest of the former national security adviser, accusing him of stealing about $2 billion through phantom arms contracts for jets, helicopters and ammunition for the army to fight the jihadist Boko Haram group which were never delivered.
- On President Obama’s recent visit to Kenya, a comprehensive anti-corruption plan was drawn up and is to be implemented with the help of the United States. This is the first proactive step the Presidency has taken towards fighting corruption since Uhuru Kenyatta was voted into power two years ago. Signs that the plan is actually being implemented were seen in the last week of November when President Kenyatta fired five members of his Cabinet suspected of engaging in corruption. In the same week he gave a speech on how he intends to deal with corruption in various areas of the economy.
Corruption denies many African citizens their rightful share in the economy, which becomes concentrated in the hands of a small group. This stunts economic growth and can lead to poverty and social unrest. It is therefore very encouraging to see that there is a renewed focus on corruption and that the citizens of Africa are making it clear that this is something they demand from a leader.