Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigerian Finance Minister, has called on leaders in Africa to muster the political will to tackle the bane of political corruption infecting neophyte democracies on the continent.
She acknowledged that there are problems with organising elections in Africa; nonetheless, the democratic processes are being strengthened in many parts of the continent.
“But the key issue which is not discussed is how to minimise political corruption from infecting our democracies,” she noted.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who is also the Nigerian Coordinating Minister of the Economy, made the call during a lecture on: “What Africa should do to claim the 21’st Century,” at the 2nd John A. Kufuor Global Development Series 2013 in Accra on Friday.
She said leaders in Africa need to do a lot of work to tackle corruption in government procurement, to develop transparent judicial systems, and to build a vibrant civil society.
“The continent has come a long way from the turbulence of the 1980s and 1990s and today, many African countries are now multi-party democracies, but without accountable governments and strong institutions, the continent will not claim this 21st century.”
She observed that said the problem to the Africans fledgling democracies is political corruption, pondering: “No one wants to discuss this big problem of how we finance the democratic process? How do we finance election campaigns and political parties? And where do the resources come from?”
She said in many developing countries, what people are beginning to observe is that there is close relationship between politics and business.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala noted that businesses provide financial support to get their politicians elected and then in turn, they get substantial favours which help them to recoup some of their investments.
Some of these favours, she observed that could be very “distortionary” for the economy; it can mean granting tariff protection to a few friends, but which can be to the detriment of the majority of the population.
The one time World Bank Managing Director said the problem of businesses financing political parties is not unique to Africa, but also a live issue in Western democracies, such as in the United Kingdom (UK).
She quoted Transparency International recently completed national opinion survey in the UK as saying “political parties were judged the most corrupt among a list of key sectors of UK public life”.
For the UK, they also found that 60 per cent of donations to political parties came from wealthy individuals, businesses or unions, “there was also concern that a few wealthy individuals and groups may be able to buy influence by making large donations,” she said.
The Finance Minister pointed out that leaders of the continent really needs an urgent review of the approach to financing democratic elections which is cleaner and more transparent.
She expressed wonder why the continent could not spearhead the crusade having witnessed and learnt the mistakes of the western world, adding: “Why can’t Africa lead the way in this endeavour and avoid the mistakes of the Western countries?”
The John A. Kufuor Foundation aims at fashioning out measures to promote good governance on the continent through electoral monitoring, strengthening electoral systems, conflict mediation and resolution, promoting accountability and transparency and deepening democratic structures.
The focus is on economic and social development bringing the expertise of international leaders in areas such as economic diversification, debt relief, public private partnerships and the provision of social safety nets, to provide the critical tools needed to ensure sustainable development for countries and businesses across Africa.
The Foundation is premised on three inter-related pillars; Leadership, Governance and Development and will collaborate with state institutions, civil society organisations, the private sector, the media and development partners in order to achieve its vision of effective leadership, democratic governance and sustainable development in Africa.