Analysis of the Effects of Widespread Corruption and Bad Governance in Africa

By: Josephus Moses Gray

Prof. J. Moses Gray

Unfolding trend of events has practically and openly shown time after time that  the character of conflict presents itself as a ‘Chameleon’ uniquely reflecting the environment it finds itself, therefore partnering with all the existing odds available to inflame the potential obstacles. With such established space, conflict, knowing no specific age, creed, color, status, ideology or borders, and without second thought, unleashes, its vicious and nefarious tentacles to ensure uneasiness, suffocation of law and order and while grimly piercing peace, trust, stability, raining havoc and destruction at the highest proportion exclusively relating to dishonest patrons and their tainted-hearted collaborators with selfish and one-track-minded interests most often at the grave disappointment of the citizens coupled with calculated  threats to national security. This research article is authored by Josephus Moses Gray.

From the strike of any imagination, this article eats deep into the fabrics happenings of tough and rough features and the doomsdays’ agents to keep the heat of agony on; while it assesses the root causes of persistent conflicts across African five regions and further discusses the link responsible for abject poverty in Africa. It further evaluated the curse of rampant corruption and the scourge of bad governance by African leaders and governments and the role of corrupt African leaders, political bureaucracies, foreign capitalists and authoritarian officials.

Furthermore, it penetrates into how bad leadership and rampant corruption are killing Africa’s progress and keep the population in the tenacious state of poverty and woes. It looks deep into how abused of public resources and corruption have to a lager extent affected the lives and wellbeing of the population, and how unethical practice has grown even larger to the extent it is not only hampering development and growth on the continent but it is also hunting men and women of honesty and integrity who have made it their lifetime duty to blow loud whistles against it.

“This might sound  ridiculous”, but it is a glimpsing fact that oil’s curse can be avoidable and turn into fruitful and praiseworthy blessings; but the saddest nightmare always plagues dozen of oil -rich African states that mismanaged their resources that generate most needed wealth; since oil resource often in many instances fostered corruption, benefits and profoundly serves foreign capitalists and corrupt leaders’ deep-seated interests to the displeasure of the largest society, thereby restricting bulk of the population to abject poor and inhumane sufferings.

According to US Department of Energy(2008), Canada as one of the top ten world oil producers, has one of the least corrupt governments in the world, on the other hand, Norway is one of the top ten exporters of crude oil in the world, while maintaining its stature as a perennial leader of the United Nations Human Development Index. From the 1950s to 2000s, Africa has experienced lots of assassinations either by coups d’etat or by civil naughty including political detentions, thus depriving Africa of the men and women who would perhaps have built a better future.

The latest Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries on a rating scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (Highly clean) in the world. Seychelles, Botswana, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Namibia and Mauritius are among the transparent nations in the world, while Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Guinea Bissau and Equatorial Guinea are the most corrupt nations in Africa and the world (Transparency International, 2018). The wide-spread endemic of corruption across African states  has slows down development and leads to the increase of poverty, inequality, suffering, deaths, diseases and in most instances conflicts have been blamed for most of the conflicts in Africa.

In her inaugural address in 2006, Ex-president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announced that corruption was “the major public enemy, while in 2012 she termed it as “vampire”; she later conceded defeat to uproot corruption from public sector on grounds that corruption was endemic at every level of the Liberian society, but said she had underestimated the level of corruption in her country when she took office.. Former president Johnson-Sirleaf, however, was able to have established anti-corruption agencies to checkmate and expose the endemic called corruption in order to enhance development and cut down abuse of public resources. While President George Weah in his inaugural address in 2018 vowed to uproot corruption, pinpointed that “ corruption must end now”.

. Corruption is not a new phenomenon to the African continent and its huge populations, it has been eating up every sphere of the continent especially corruption prone states in Africa. This unethical practice has grown even larger to an extent it is not only hampering development and growth on the continent but it is also hunting men and women of honesty and integrity who have made it their lifetime duty to blow loud whistles against it. The trend Corruption has been seen as inimical to African development and cut across every country on the continent, but few countries are placed in the bottom of corruption perceptions Index for 2018 while others are at the top of the index. Corruption pervasiveness in many African states and in a variety of ways undermined economic, social, political, and cultural development.

All along, conflict, in bed with some politicians, juntas and other cunning and conning forces has shown its ugly head in the form of power grab, victimization of citizens and others by robbing and depriving them of their God provided resources while without remorse; embarked on fanning civil crises as diversionary stunt to carry out massive looting, plunder and pillages wherein, specifically in Africa, oil and gas discovery, instead of being a blessing, quickly degenerates into total curse and gross abuse of human dignity…to the great pleasure of the so-called movers and shakers along with their accomplices.

According to Transparency International (2018), there is little doubt that corruption is one of the greatest threats to African – and global – stability and development, and yet all around the world, many governments are slow to act against it. Citizens who decide to take a stand against the corruption that affects them find that their right to freedom of speech is hindered, and they struggle to hold governments to account. Their very lives and futures are affected and yet, they are prepared to fight on.  Africa has come to be a major Geo-strategic importance to the oil-dependent industrialized economics and giving the attention that Africa continues to receive from global powers, the idea of an African rebirth seems to be finding more and more acceptance within the contemporary global politics, while at the same time the world’s powerful economics continue to disadvantage the continent in the process of gaining access to Africa’s natural resources especially the continent’s rich oil.

This situation is playing well in the hands of these powerful states due to the curse of rampant corruption and bad governance by African leaders and governments. Bad leadership and rampant corruption are killing Africa’s progress while the greater number of the continent’s population lives on less than United States One dollar a day, the population in most circumstances are suppressed by their leaders through an autocratic means which keep these corrupt political bureaucrats in the hands of power on the African continent. Africa is very rich with natural possessions such as fertile soil, enough rain and sunshine for cultivation, raw materials, oil, gas, gold and many other major resources, but corruption and bad governances are the major reasons for the visible miserable poverty, unmanageable sufferings and deaths on the continent. The continent oil’s high quality makes it relatively inexpensive to refine; but most Africans are seeing little benefit from this influx of oil drillers and investment; in fact they are often hurt by exports of their countries’ oil and other riches(Sotho, 2006.).

On the African continent, corruption is a major challenge and serves as a barrier to improve the livelihood of the population, and denied the largest population the socio-economic and development needs. The act also dehumanized the largest society by declining the quality of living standards in the various countries across the continent. Despite stringent anti-corruption laws and permanent commissions to curb oil corruption in Africa, corruption reigns supreme in public sector with it to some proportion, being tolerated without concert action against the perpetrators, with the fight against corruption being selective.

This systematic practices of corruption also decreases the tax revenues generations, increases poverty, destroyed and broken down homes and families, leaves to separations of couples, increases the suffering, leads to more vulnerability, blamed for high prostitutions, and slow pace of public infrastructure. The continent oil’s high quality makes it relatively inexpensive to refine; but most Africans are seeing little benefit from this influx of oil drillers and investment; in fact they are often hurt by exports of their countries’ oil and other riches.

Unlike other continents, in Africa corruption is being fought or dealt with through rhetoric-with judges and law enforcement personnel being opened to bribery to compromise cases, even when there is a strong and visible evidence and fact; this fight on the continent doesn’t come with sincerity, commitment and loyalty. Corruption appears to be the daily practice across majority of the African countries as it widely carry out and visible in the system, it is also eating up the fabric of other sectors including political institutions, schools, civil society organizations, military, the media, police, national and international NGOs, commercial drivers, business sector, sporting groups, churches, mosques, and banking institutions Corruption Watch (2015).

Transparency International (2017) has revealed that corruption in Liberia is endemic at every level of the Liberian government, and added that corruption perceptions Index for 2016 placed Liberia is the 120 least corrupt nations out of 175 countries. It pinpointed that corruption rank in Liberia averaged 105.15 from 2005 until 2018, reaching an all-time high of 150 in 2007 and a record low of 75 in 2012.

According to Transparency International (2016) corruption perception index, the level of corruption in Africa has eaten deep into the fabric of every sectors of the African-nation and that has been responsible for the crises of development in the country. It report revealed that there are several ways corruption in Africa is being perpetuated and one of the ways of stealing on the African continent is through the self-increment of salaries by the members of the Legislature of Parliament  for fixing the salaries of elected public officers. While on the other hands, senior official of government also determine the allowances of their staffers. The political bureaucrats and lawmakers have perfected a system of increasing their own salaries, which make them earn more than their foreign counterparts (Transparency International,2016).

Some of the  impacts of corruption  include the cost of doing business, increasing poverty, insecurity and the challenge of sustainable development. Africa is gifted with rich natural resources and it has attracted foreign aid assistance to address the development needs of the Liberian-nation.  But in the face of these riches, African continent in general, remains undeveloped and classed as the less developed continent in the world; where the populations survive on One United States Dollar per day.

According to (Transparency International (2018) report, different reasons have been ascribed to the continent under-development situation with two different schools of thought which are the dependency and corruption.  The different schools of thought have come out with the core reasons of Africa’s underdevelopment which they attributed to the failures of the African governments to follow the development path of the highly developed nations, while  the exploitation of African riches by the global economic powers are major causes for African impoverished state.

Both World Bank and Transparency International (2006) reports revealed that corruption affects countries’ development agenda in various ways, and noted that billions of dollars that would have been used to provide social services in countries on the continent such as Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Guinea Bissau and Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Kenya, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Sierra Leone and other states are siphon and kept in foreign accounts like the Swiss bank by past and present African elites and state bureaucrats.

For instance, the United Nations (1999) disclosed that over $200 billion were stolen by African leaders and this amount was more than half of the continent debts of $300 billion. According to Ayitte (2002), this amount also “exceeds what comes into Africa as foreign aid assistance.

According to World Bank, the sum of $30 billion aid to Africa ended up in overseas bank accounts. This statement was also corroborated by the United Nations (UN) and the Africa Union (AU) who stressed that an estimated sum of $148 billion is embezzled in Africa yearly by African leaders, political bureaucratese, foreign capitalists and multinational companies and influential civil servants. However, one proven researcher Water Rodney claimed that the underdevelopment of Africa was as a result of the exploitation of the continent by the European power through colonialism, capitalism and imperialism( Awojobi, 2014).

While Ayittey (2000) gave a breakdown of funds that have been stolen by some African Head of States: For instance: General Sani Abacha of Nigeria — $20billion; H.Boigny of Ivory Coast — $6 billion; General Ibrahim Babangida of Nigeria –$5billion; President Mobutu of Zaire — $4billion; Mouza Traore of Mali — $2billion; Henri Bedie of Ivory Coast – $300million; Denis N’gnesso of Congo — $200million; President Omar Bongo of Gabon — $80million; President Paul Biya of Cameroon — $70million; President Haite Mariam of Ethiopia — $30million and  President Hissene Habre of Chad –$3million.

Ndibe (2006) quoted the former World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz (2006) that public officials in Nigeria have embezzled more than $300 billion from the nation’s pulse for the past forty decades. While Ezekweili (2005) revealed that since Nigeria’s independence, it leaders have stolen over $400 billion from the sales of crude oil. According to him, the $400 billion would have impacted the development progress in Nigeria.  Another consequence of corruption is that it impacted negatively on public investment, leads to abject poverty, reduces government income, increase public unhappiness, decreases expenditure on operations and maintenance and reduces the quality of public services and lowers its productivity.

Corruption Watch ( 2016) disclosed that unfortunately it is those who are meant to be upholding the law – the police and courts – who seem to be the most likely to be involved in bribery, and those who are the poorest in society who are the most likely to have to pay. The Corruption Watch ( 2016) report revealed that majority of bribe payers (62%) admitted that they have paid bribes multiple times over the past year, either for the same public service or for different services.

The Corruption Watch (2015 survey asked respondents how much corruption there was in 10 different powerful groups in their country – the political and government elite (the president’s office, members of parliament, government officials), public officials who work at the service level (tax officials, the police, judges and magistrates, local government councillors), and those who are not part of the public sector but who often wield strong influence (business executives, religious leaders and traditional leaders).

The findings of the survey indicated that across Africa regions, the police are seen as the most corrupt group – almost half of respondents (47%) said they thought either most or all police officers are corrupt(Corruption Watch,2015). The police are followed by business executives, which are seen as the second most corrupt group – 42% said most or all business executives are corrupt. This is the first time that business executives have made it into the ranks of the most corrupt group. Corruption Watch (2015) noted that government officials and tax officials rank as the third and fourth most corrupt groups (38% and 37% respectively), followed by judges and magistrates, members of parliament, local government councillors and the office of the presidency all score similarly, while traditional leaders and religious leaders are seen to be the least affected by corruption in regions.

Transparency International (2017) survey report pinpointed that corruption corruption has grown even larger to an extent it is not only hampering development and growth on the continent but it is also hunting men and women of honesty and integrity who have made it their lifetime duty to blow loud whistles against it.  The issue of corruption in government and abuses of budgetary expending by African leaders and political bureaucrats enables corruption to thrive as it is widely accepted as a fact of life. African leaders and other officials who occupied offices of public trust are engaged into systematic corrupt, violations of human rights and abuses, lack of adequate rule of law and social justice for all to the level that corruption across the   African continent has been institutionalized, become customary and accepted as an informal part of everyday life mostly in the public sector.

Corruption is negatively affecting democratic space and denying the poor needed justice, rule of law and erode public trust in government to effectively manage their resources; it’s also undermines institutions and unique processes to improve the vulnerability of the greater suffering population. Unlike other continents, in Africa corruption is being fought or dealt with through rhetoric-with judges and law enforcement personnel being opened to bribery to compromise cases, even when there is a strong and visible evidence and fact; this fight on the continent doesn’t come with sincerity, commitment and loyalty (Transparency International, 2015). It is also eating up the fabric of other sectors including political institutions, schools, civil society organizations, Banks, the media, police, national and international NGOs, commercial drivers, business sector, sporting groups, churches and mosques, and banking institutions.

        Describing bribery on the African continent as a rife, Corruption Watch (2015 quoting Transparency International 2015 survey reported that an alarming of 75-million people have paid a bribe in the past year – some of those bribes were to escape arrest or punishment, but many were for essential services such as water or electricity, or to obtain official documents such as an ID, or to get attention at a hospital.

      Across the region 22% of people who were involved with either public schools, public healthcare, the police, courts, or applying for official documents or for utilities, in the past 12 months admitted that they paid a bribe. When extrapolating the proportion of bribe payers in each of the surveyed countries to their entire adult population, this suggests that nearly 75-million Africans have paid a bribe.

       In Africa poor governance has led to poor economic growth and it is manifested through corruption, political instability, ineffective rule of laws and institutions. Some African countries went through governance failures and corruption at some point in time, but their governance capacity made them recover and ensure the maintenance of rapid growth performance through constant demands to improve government and reduce corruption. In many African countries, corruption takes place as a rule based for decisions. That is, public officials influence the economic decision in detriment of the entire society. This results in inefficiency and high transaction costs as well as distortion of transparent and normal market operations and thus, creating insecurity for investors.  Corruption takes place when public officials break the laws to fulfill their own interest. The most common types of corruption are bribery and extortion as well as the allocation of public resources to favor political benefits.

In most cases the African leaders try to run the country by copying the modern western state systems at domestic level and neglect the tradition and culture of their own people. The leadership in most African countries is centralized, thus, the local government does not have the power and authority to take any decision. Therefore, it hinders efficient the capacity of the local administrations (China-Africa think tank, 2017).

Due to rampant corruption, African children do not have access to quality education which is required to let them gain knowledge and skills, to equip them to have better ideas and opportunities for employment. Other correlated problems as well, for example, lack of skills and strong policies, and that is low economic performance with high inflation.  The ruling class across the continent many a times pleads ignorance of the fact that they are in power in order to be of service to the citizens and not vice versa; they exploit their positions to put as much public money as they can in their pockets and even get away with it.

Unfortunately, most African countries have come to recognize corruption as a normal occurrence and often see it as a means to an end.  In 1999 the United Nations approximated that the ruling elites drained more than 250 billion dollars out of Africa each year in their private over sea back accounts in Europe where they have invested their ill-gotten gains and wealth stolen from their motherland. Africa continues to be poor because politics is considered an easy ticket to prosperity, to add to that the leadership has no continuity agenda and opt for dying in office, being some of the richest people in the world amidst the most poverty-stricken citizens in the world.

In this day and age corruption and bad leadership and corruption are killing Africa’s progress while the greater number of the continent’s population lives on less than United States One dollar a day. The population in most cases is suppressed by their leaders, the autocratic means that keep these corrupt political bureaucrats in the hands of power.

Again, abject poverty and rampant corruption served as major obstacles to growth and development on the continent; with on the other hand gross human rights violations, injustices, disrespect for rule of law and order, misused of national resources and state wealth by autocrats and corrupt leaders and their families and friends, dishonest bureaucrats, foreign capitalists and the lack of proper democracy, are some of the problems responsible for the continent’s backwardness in the context of growth and development(China-Africa think tank, 2017).

Governance has increasingly become a major instrument for the successful growth performance and development purposes in the world. The government does not provide an efficient institutional framework to sustain good governance, transparency and accountability of its institutions. In many African countries, weak institutions do not secure the required long run sustainable growth. However, many African leaders are contented with a short term solution that imposes a long term cost to the nation.

The extensive corruption in Liberian society has been institutionalized, become customary and accepted as an informal part of everyday life mostly in the public sector, Liberians mainly do not challenge the status quo that enables corruption to thrive as it is widely accepted as a fact of life (New Vision, 2012). Certain people in offices of public trust are engaged into systematic corrupt practices despite effort by the leadership of the government; there still exists administrative and financial malpractices in public sectors, violations of human rights and abuses, lack of adequate rule of law and social justice for all.

The results show that more than half of all citizens think corruption is getting worse in their country and that their government is doing a bad job at tackling corruption. In South Africa, a staggering 70% believe that the government is not doing enough to tackle corruption. Corruption Watch (2015). Overall, the police service is considered the most corrupt institution, with a global average of 47% of people believing that most or all police are corrupt.  According to the Corruption Watch (2015) survery, it come as no surprise to South Africans that local respondents also named the police as the most corrupt institution in the country. lmost half (49%) felt that most or all police officials are corrupt – but local government is hot on police heels, in the public’s view, at 45%. They are followed by government officials at 44% and members of Parliament, also at 44%. The least corrupt, according to South African respondents, are traditional leaders (26%) and religious leaders (27%).

The survey revealed that more than one in four people who accessed public services, such as health care and education, paid a bribe in the preceding year – approximately 130-million citizens in the 35 countries surveyed. According to Corruption Watch (2015), in South Africa the percentage of people who paid a bribe for access to essential services in the past year more than doubled from 7% in 2015 to 18% in 2019. Those who reported having paid a bribe to police stand at 19%, an alarming increase from the 3% reported in 2015.

The Corruption Watch (2016) also reported that local perceptions on whether corruption is increasing or decreasing took a turn for the positive – in 2015 83% felt it had increased, compared to 64% in 2019. Meanwhile, 16% in 2019 felt it had decreased, compared to just 6% in 2015. It further stated that corruption is hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest. For example, the poorest people are twice as likely to pay a bribe as the richest people in Africa. Paying bribes for essential public services means poorer families have less money for basic necessities like food, water and medicine. More than half of South Africans (57%) feel that citizens can help stop corruption, the Corruption Watch (2015) survey has revealed.

.According to Corruption Watch (2015) and Transparency International (2015) reports, corruption is on the rise in Africa with more than half (55%) of all citizens think that corruption increased in the previous 12 months; only 23% think it declined. The reports explained that many governments are failing to do enough, and that only one in three citizens (34%) thinks their government is doing a good job at fighting corruption, while 59% rate their government’s performance as bad.

Both institutions reports showed that among key public institutions, police are most widely seen as corrupt: 47% of people say most or all police are corrupt. But also almost four in 10 citizens think most or all government officials (39%) and parliamentarians (36%) are corrupt. These results, according to Corruption Watch (2015) and Transparency International (2015), are consistent with the last round of findings in 2015, where citizens similarly thought that the police were the most corrupt institution.

According to studies, bribery demands are a regular occurrence for many on the African continent and that more than one in four citizens who accessed public services, such as health care and education, paid a bribe in the previous year. This is equivalent to approximately 130-million people. Corruption Watch (2015) added that people’s experience with bribery varies  shoed that men are slightly more likely to pay a bribe than women, the poorest people are twice as likely to pay a bribe as the richest people, and young people aged 18-34 are more likely to pay a bribe than people aged 55 and over, while two-thirds of citizens fear retaliation if they report corruption. Yet, despite this, more than half of citizens surveyed (53%) think ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.

In many of Africa’s most oil-rich countries such as Nigeria, Angola, Libya, Southern Sudan, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea, oil, instead of being a blessing for the population, it becomes curse and produces corruption as an endemic debacle (Front Page Africa, 2016). Oil discovery in Africa automatically leads to corruption menace which gives birth to doom and gloom-driven poverty. Unlike other continents, in Africa corruption is being fought or dealt with through rhetoric-with judges and law enforcement personnel being opened to bribery to compromise cases, even when there is a strong and visible evidence and fact; this fight on the continent doesn’t come with sincerity, commitment and loyalty.

In its editorial, New Vision (2012) emphasized that corruption appears to be the daily practice across majority of the African countries as it widely carry out and visible in the system, it is also eating up the fabric of other sectors including political institutions, schools, civil society organizations, Banks, the media, police, national and international NGOs, commercial drivers, business sector, sporting groups, churches and mosques, and banking institutions. In some continents the situation is to the contrary, oil is a blessing and not a curse, it removes the people from poverty to better their livelihoods; let’s look at the case of North America that produces more oil than Africa, has the lowest resource rents as a share of GDP and has good governance ratings. This article is the research work of Josephus Moses Gray, Assistant Professor of International Studies of the University of Liberia Graduate School. He can be reached via email: graymoses@yahoo.com or Mobile (231)880330299.

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About Cholo Brooks 13141 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.