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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Tackling corruption in sub-Saharan Africa

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A new wave of leaders in sub-Saharan Africa has expressed renewed commitment to fighting corruption. This trend reflects a recognition that good governance is key to fostering growth and economic development.

The link between growth and governance is especially strong on this resource-rich continent, where people stand to gain more economically from Some African governments are already showing a clear commitment to fighting corruption and strengthening governance.

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For instance, various segments of the South African government apparatus and institutions were made subservient to a select group of people during the so-called state capture episode. Since 2018, the government has been engaged in a bold fight to reverse the damage by improving procurement, fighting smuggling, and rebuilding the capacity of critical institutions such as the revenue authority and the anti-corruption agency.

Similarly, Angola had lost control over billions of dollars from its sovereign wealth fund. The money was siphoned off by a rogue fund manager, with others complicit, through complex financial transactions moving through offshore financial centers and invested in ventures of personal interest. The new Angolan government elected in 2017 changed the management and placed the previous management under investigation. The fund’s assets have since been recovered and are now being reinvested for the benefit of the Angolan people.

In other instances, however, retrograde processes such as kickbacks in the allocation of uncompetitive oil and gas contracts and the expropriation of private assets are still in place, undermining the sanctity of property rights and the rule of law, with damaging effects on investment and growth. In a few cases, the independence of central banks is under attack from politicians seeking expedient solutions to finance the budget or boost growth through monetary easing instead of reforms.

Improving governance is difficult, as the beneficiaries of corruption often fight back. It is a complex, drawn-out battle among the various players—government, institutions, civil society, media, and the private sector. Strong political commitment is thus an absolute requirement for success.

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