China’s anti-graft fight has lessons for Africa

By Mark Kapchanga Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/21 19:23:41

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Just after Kenya's independence in 1963, late president Jomo Kenyatta said that for African countries to be on the growth trajectory, they need to tackle disease, ignorance and poverty. But more than half a century since most African countries were set free from colonial chains, little if any, has been achieved in terms of development. The continent still suffers from a weak healthcare system. Due to its poor healthcare infrastructure, Africa bears about 25 percent of the global disease burden.

For a long time, Africa's problems have been blamed on colonialists. However, this may not be entirely true. South Africa, perhaps one of the strongest economies on the continent, was colonized until 1994.

Africa is suffering from stunted growth due to the ever-rising cases of corruption. The vice is so deeply ingrained in the continent that were Kenyatta alive today, he would have listed it as among the problems the continent needs to tackle before a take-off. This is augmented by Transparency International, an anti-corruption body, which says that bribes are paid either to escape punishment by the police or courts, win a tender or even get access to basic services.

So severe has been the problem of corruption in Africa that in 2015, Brunel - a Dutch personnel service company - shut down operations in Nigeria saying that "if it is impossible to do business without breaking the rules and putting our staff in danger, then that's it." Brunel's CEO Jan Arie van Barneveld lamented that even though the firm had made more than 100 million euros ($115 million) in sales, mainly in the oil and gas business, in recent years, he had a feeling that "we were being constantly cheated and bribed."

Faced with pressure to enhance their global investment profile, and the fear of losing international investors, African leaders appear to be taking serious steps in cracking down on corruption.

In his acceptance speech on March 2015, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said, "We shall strongly battle another form of evil that is even worse than terrorism - the evil of corruption … corruption will not be tolerated by this administration; an it shall no longer be allowed to stand as if it is a respected monument in this nation."

Despite the anti-corruption efforts that have seen Nigeria's Corruption Perception Index decrease from 28 percent in 2016 to 27 percent in 2017, critics say the Buhari administration needs to do more to bring down graft.

Perhaps it is the strong, angry anti-corruption statement made by President Uhuru Kenyatta in August 2018 that triggered the feeling that Africa needs to come up with a ruthless approach to save it from the deadly jaws of corruption. The president said he had lost close friends over the war on corruption, and he was ready to lose more, if Kenya is to be a corruption-free country.

While echoing the thoughts, television commentators, newspaper columnists and callers at radio networks said it was time Kenya adopted the China model in the fight against corruption.

Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has come up with a far-reaching campaign against corruption, which began following the conclusion of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012.

Through his policy of zero-tolerance for corruption, since November 2012, more than 1.5 million corrupt officials have been punished and a total of 440 centrally-administrated senior officials investigated, according to the disciplinary arm of the ruling Communist Party of China.

The cost that comes with corruption has denied Africans a golden opportunity to grow, develop and therefore offer decent education, housing, healthcare and other amenities to their people. It's time Africa went the China way and adopted a zero-tolerance attitude against the corrupt if it is to save future generations from their filthy hands.

The author is a journalist on African issues based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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