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IS CORRUPTION SPECIFIC TO AFRICA?

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In discussions relating to political as well as socio-economical issues concerning Africa , a predominant topic is always corruption. It seems that the general perception of Africa in the global view is that of a continent entangled in the strangulating net of corruption. This latent synonymical association of Africa with corruption raises the question, “Is corruption specific to Africa ?” In a panel discussion titled “Corruption in Africa ”, at the 18th Africa Festival in Wuerzburg , Germany , on the 28th May 2006 , different facets of corruption were discussed. The panel included among others the chairman of Transparency organization Prof. Peter Eigen and the South Africa ’s ambassador to Germany His Excellence Moses Chikane. The panel discussed different types of corruption, causes of corruption, corruption in Africa and possible strategies to curb, stop or even eradicate corruption worldwide. The interactive part of the discussion with the audience brought crucial questions to limelight that resulted in heated and emotional arguments. Some of the topics discussed are modified and summarized in this report.
 

What is corruption? Which types of behaviour or actions could be termed as corrupt? These questions open the discussion. Corruption is a phenomenon with a wide spectrum ranging from misuse or abuse of power to dishonesty. Any behaviour that involves accepting gratifications to influence partial and unjustified decision or result in fraud is corruption. All participants either actively or passively involved in the action could be termed as corrupt. Another issue is whether corruption is part of culture in some countries. There are pro and contra arguments. If corruption is accepted to be part of culture, then those who define corruption as a behaviour that does not conform to the law and culture of the country in which corruption occurs, would have to modify their definition. On the other hand, the notion that corruption is part of a culture is simply a sign of accepting defeat in the fight against corruption. If corruption is rampant in a country, the slogan “If you can’t beat them, join them” becomes a common phrase. Corruption is then more or less accepted as part of the culture.

 
Is corruption specific to Africa ? A short story could illustrate the answer to this question. At a top University in the USA , an African student and an Asian student met and became friends. They completed their studies successfully and decided to go back to their home countries. But before leaving, they promised to visit each other in their respective countries. 5 years later, the Asian invited his African friend to visit him in his hometown. The African friend accepted the invitation. While on visit, the African friend was amazed at all the luxury his Asian friend was able to acquire within 5 years after graduation. He could not hold the question back and asked his friend: “How is it possible for you to own a lot of luxury including expensive homes and cars just a few years after graduation?”    The Asian friend looked at him with a friendly smile and invited him for a ride. They drove in a luxury car on modern highways and complex bridges to a platform with a panoramic view of new road and bridge constructions.  continue> 
 

Moses Chikane and Peter Eigen
 
Standing side by side, the Asian asked his African friend: “What do you see from here?” The African friend answered, “Modern highways, bridge and new road constructions”. The Asian then told him, “In my position as the head of a department, I am responsible for the approval of construction contracts and budgets. All the luxury I own comes from 10% (ten percent) of the contracts’ budget.” The African friend unconsciously opened his mouth in disbelief.

The visit was over and the African friend returned to his home country. 3 years passed. The African thought of his Asian friend and invited him. The Asian frend accepted the invitation. On his arrival, both friends drove in a chauffeur driven expensive limousine on roads full of potholes to an extravagant three-storey luxury villa. A set of expensive cars were parked in front of the villa. The Asian could not believe his eyes. During dinner, he could not but ask his African friend the question, “How is it possible for you to own all these luxury within 3 years? You are even richer than me.” The African looked at his Asian friend with a smile and invited him to the top floor of the villa. Standing side by side on the balcony, the African asked his Asian friend: “What do you see from here?” The Asian answered, “I see uncompleted road constructions, abandoned and rusty construction machinery.” The African then told his Asian friend: “In my position as the head of a department, I am responsible for the approval of construction contracts and budgets. All the luxury I own comes from 100% (one hundred percent) of the contracts’ budget. The Asian friend’s jaw immediately dropped.

 
 

Corruption is definitely not specific to Africa . Corruption is practiced worldwide in one form or the other. The type and method of corruption might be different from country to country. This leads to the classification of corruption, which may be summed up under the following headings: political corruption, business corruption, petty corruption, organized corruption, chaotic corruption and grand corruption. Political corruption includes manipulation of election processes and vote results, false promises, buying voters and journalists, nepotism, refusal to step down after loosing election and cronyism. Business corruption includes money embezzlement and laundering, bribery, intentional false accounting and misleading business information. Petty corruption occurs in cases where people accept presents or relatively small amount of money to offer services which are supposed to be free of charge. In public offices, typical petty corruption occurs when an employee accepts money or other favours from a citizen in exchange for a service which the citizen normally has right to. Organized corruption is identified by the professional plan and coordination as well as the high ranking officials and/or criminal groups/syndicates involved. In the case of chaotic corruption, there is little or no professionalism involved, the amount of bribery may be arbitrarily increased and the person who paid might not receive the favour expected. Grand corruption occurs in large financial institutions, governmental and industrial organizations at top level positions. In this class of corruption, rules and regulations are bypassed by people in top positions to award huge contracts to firms in exchange for very huge sum of money. Grand corruption is extremely detrimental to the economic and infrastructural development of a nation. We are all aware of corruption and its disastrous effects. But what are the causes of corruption and how can corruption be prevented? There are diverse answers or suggestions to these questions.  The causes of corruption range from unsatisfactory wages within government institutions to low-level of professionalism combined with high-level job security. The common basic answer to corruption prevention seems to be educating the citizens about their rights and what to do when bribery is demanded from them.  continue>

 
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 Other initiatives include the formation of government and private organizations equipped with the necessary resources to combat corruption. An example of such organization is the Transparency International, a non-profit organization founded by Prof. Peter Eigen, a former World Bank director. The organization conducts surveys and research in diverse areas relevant to corruption. A short list of publications by Transparency International includes the following: Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Bribe Payers Index (BPI), Global Corruption Barometer, Country Surveys, Global Corruption Report and National Integrity Systems Country Studies. The publications have made many governments aware of the havoc corruption is causing and consequently helped in the determination to fight against it. With more people ready to combat corruption either as individuals or as members of anti-corruption organizations, there is hope that corruption will be drastically reduced in the nearest future worldwide.
 
The discussion panel was one of the highlights of the Africa Festival 2006 in Würzburg. The opening ceremony was attended by African ambassadors, the mayor of Wuerzburg and dignitaries from German ministries and institutions. The guests received a warm welcome with a percussion performance by Amadou Kienou & Foteban, an African music group from Burkina Faso. At the opening ceremony, Angelique Kidjo, Manu Dibango and Lokua Kanza received the Africa Festival Awards (AFA) 2006. In the music concert part, the music legend Miriam Makeba gave the festival a splendid, remarkable and unforgettable touch with her excellent performance. The audience joyfully creamed when she was joined on stage by Manu Dibango, Angelique Kidjo and Lokua Kanza to do one of her popular hits. Other artists that performed included Miriam Makeba’s grand daughter Zenzi Lee, Angelique Kidjo, Lokua Kanza, Mayra Andrade, Salif Keita, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Femi Kuti, Nneka, Bantu, Emanuel Jal, X, King Mensah, Lulendo and Atongo Zimba. As usual the acrobatic group, Adesa, performed not only to the delight of the kids. Despite cloudy and rainy whether, over 100,000 visitors were counted at the 4-day festival.  
 
Miriam Makeba
 
Nneka
 
Festival Photos
Adesa>
Angelique Kidjo>
Atongo Zimba>
Bantu>
Dance Floor1>
Dance Floor2>
Emanuel Jal>
Femi Kuti>
Ghana Football Team>
King Mensah>
Lokua Kanza>
Lulendo>
Mayra Andrade>
Miriam Makeba>
Nneka>
Opening Ceremony>
Percussion Sessions>
Panel discussion -         Corruption in Africa>
Salif Keita>
Tiken Jah Fakoly>
Festival Visitors>
Vitamin X>
ZenziLee>
 

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