African countries told to fight corruption as AU has no anti-corruption magic wand

Prof. Emmanuel Nnadozie

The African Union (AU) during its 30th Assembly of Heads of State and Government held from January 22 – 29, 2018 at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, launched the anti-corruption campaign in Africa.

The launch of the African Anti-Corruption Year, the AU says follows the declaration made at the 29th Assembly of the Heads of State and Government in January 2017. The Summit theme was: “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”.

Africa reportedly loses $148 billion every year to corruption.

Last week had an exclusive interview in Accra with Prof. Emmanuel Nnadozie, the Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) on a range of subjects including the anti-corruption campaign of the AU. The ACBF is a specialised agency of the AU.

Anti-corruption fight

When he was asked if the AU has what it takes to fight corruption on the continent, he said: “Corruption is not something that the AU can wave a magic wand and it will disappear. First of all we need to understand that corruption is a worldwide issue. We should not say that because corruption is a worldwide issue it should therefore be tolerated in Africa. Sometimes we also make the mistake and think that corruption is only endemic in Africa, which is absolutely not correct.”

“If you look at the ongoing debate in the United States, you will note that what is at the bottom of it is official corruption to an extent that probably the country has never seen for a long time.

I want to make that point. It is not that corruption should be tolerated in Africa because it exists everywhere – no not at all,” he said

Prof. Nnadozie explained that when we say the AU has the capacity to fight corruption, what we are actually saying is that AU should actually go and solve the corruption.

“The AU has performed a fantastic role, first of all by providing the platform for the African leaders who in my view courageously came and tackled the issue to show that this is a major scourge and major problem for development – that it is costing lives eroding people’s confidence in the government and preventing major development from happening.

This is a major first step in my view.  Before you deal with corruption you have to identify and accept that it exists. Remember that it’s always not the case. People can be defensive about it. They don’t even want to mention corruption, let alone African Heads of State saying publicly that corruption is a problem. So for me I think this is a major step forward.

Now it’s left with the heavy lifting at the country level. A fight will have to take place and this is not a fight that can be left for the civil society or some pressure group or for the opposition or for watchdog and the media,” he added.

According to Prof. Nnadozie, corruption is such a unique problem that it requires the attention of leadership. The highest leadership in the country – the Head of State or President must be the chief anti-corruption person. He or she must be incorruptible and must not be corrupt. Because without that kind of situation every other thing is a waste of time, he pointed out.

“Leadership from the top or somebody who has the moral high ground, to say I’m really free of corruption and I can provide that kind of leadership. The tone at the top, and not just make a speech and go and sleep.

There is no country in Africa that doesn’t have anti-corruption policies – they all have them. Policies that meet international standards, but they have not been implemented because the leader has not made it a point to implement it and to hold those around him or her accountable and show by example.

In the anti-corruption fight, he called for the right structures – they have to start with Parliament. He said most parliaments in Africa are weak or they are subordinate to the executive.

“I know many people see corruption as an enforcement issue. The judiciary has to enforce the law, if people are found guilty they have to be punished or jailed.

“But if the legislature is not strong then the judiciary cannot perform its job, because that’s where the protection of political party members starts from.

Look at countries that have been successful, they normally start from there it doesn’t matter if you are a relative of the president or you are a member of the party. If you are found independently that you are corrupt, you will pay the price.

The AU has taken the major step and the countries need to act.

He also urged the media to step up their anti-corruption fight.

“There is no country in Africa that doesn’t have anti-corruption policies – they all have them.”

Agenda 2063

Prof. Nnadozie indicated that last month the AU and the ACBF signed an agreement that formalized relations making the organization a specialised AU agency, and stated that they are holding discussions with other units of the AU to look at institutional weaknesses in terms of capacities, skills and in terms of mindset and overall implementation structures so that Agenda 2063 can become a reality in particular through the implementation of the first 10-year plan.

The AU says on its website, Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. It builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.

Some of the past and current initiatives it builds on include: the Lagos Plan of Action, The Abuja Treaty, The Minimum Integration Programme, the Programme for Infrastructural Development in Africa (PIDA), the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), The New partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Regional Plans and Programmes and National Plans. It is also built on national, regional, continental best practices in its formulation.

Prof. Nnadozie also thinks that Agenda 2063 has to be ambitious because without ambition it’s not possible to achieve anything.

“If you aim low, you hit low, but if you aim high even if you miss the highest level at least you fall somewhere that is reasonable but not fall flat,” he said.

He believes that Agenda 2063 is ambitious, but not in the negative sense. He argues that it’s ambitious in the positive sense because the African people deserve the best that they can have as participants in the global enterprise, as human beings they should be able to aspire for the Africa that they want, where there is no poverty, “where you don’t have countries mired in civil wars, terrorism or insecurity, where democracy is flourishing everywhere, where you have decent jobs for young people, where you have gender equality and gender based violence is a thing of the past, where you have Africa that is far more integrated than where it was before. Become an economic space where empowerment and economic opportunity is for everybody, no matter where you are from,” he said.

He believes that Africa should get to the stage where there is political, economic, social and institutional progress in such a way that it guarantees peace and security, peace and freedom and human rights.

According to him, the countries are committed to Agenda 2063 because they are all signatories.

“It is a continental agenda, not an individual agenda. The Agenda is now domesticated in many countries. Originally it is driven from bottom up so it was not a top-down kind of agenda and they are committed to that extent.

Walking the walk and talking the talk. From point of view of moving from strategy to implementation phase of that – you have 54 African countries so you don’t expect that all of them will be moving at the same speed,” he noted.

Prof. Nnadozie pointed that the need to recognise that the beauty of Agenda 2063 is not that it is a long term vision for the continent, but it is also an assembling of existing policy initiatives, decisions and so on and so forth that are already there.

“Whether it is silencing the guns, whether it is peace and security and gender equality, they were all existing agendas in NEPAD, APRM, SDGs and so forth. It’s an assembling of those things. They are not new plans per se, but have milestones. The Agenda is divided into five 10-year plans to make it more implementable, so that it doesn’t hang in the air.

“One major positive thing about Agenda 2063 is when you compare it with the Lagos Plan of Action or the New Partnership for Africa’s Development or the rest of them like the Abuja Treaty and so forth and so on, you will see that for the first time the question of why those ones were not implemented to the extent that we will like to see them implemented and ACBF was given the responsibility to determine that and we found out that it was not necessarily because of lack of funding, because even when funding was available, implementation was still not happening. 

“We realised that capacity was the missing link and for the first time in the history of the continent we did thorough needs assessment – what sort of human skills do you need? What sorts of expertise, institutions do you need? Are they there, and if not how do you create them? Because without them we can’t implement any of this beautiful agenda.

We have done a thorough assessment and we have developed a strategy to address the capacity gaps that are there,” he said.

He indicated that having been given the authority as a specialised agency the ACBFis going to work with the African Union Commission and individual countries to begin to address this issue along what they have been doing already.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
Copyright ©2018 by Creative Imaginations Publicity
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