SEATTLE — On July 2, the 31st Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit wrapped up, where all 54 countries officially part of the agreement were represented. While the African Union (AU) may not get as much international attention as the similarly structured European Union, it is an important political force in Africa. The focus of this year’s summit was a commitment to fighting corruption and building sustainability. In order for countries to develop and lift their people out of poverty, they will need to combat corruption. By working with the EU and USAID, the AU is working to tackle corruption in Africa.
The main political body the AU has for fighting corruption is the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption. The board’s mission is, among other things, to “promote and encourage adoption and application of anti-corruption measures on the continent”. With a task so large, it is no surprise that the board works closely with countries in both the AU and abroad to achieve its goals and stop corruption. These are a few examples of the progress in the fight against corruption in Africa.
Programs in Somalia Work to Curtail Bribes and Improve Rule of Law
Somalia has long been a poster child for corruption and insecurity. With a police force that regularly accepts bribes, there is little or no enforcement of the law. Trace International and the World Bank both rank Somalia as the worst scoring country in their 2017 Bribery Risk Indexes. Somalia is also one of the poorest countries in the world, with UNICEF estimating that one in two Somalis live in poverty and nearly one third live in extreme poverty.
The first step to tackling the nearly universal corruption in Somalia and eliminating poverty is to enact some sort of rule of law. The AU is currently attempting to do this through the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which is a peacekeeping mission aimed at bringing security to one of the least secure areas of the world. One of its methods is to help the local police force in various ways, such as providing a new clinic in the city of Baidoa.
The AU worked closely with the EU on this project, and in other cases AMISOM has collaborated with USAID to provide aid and resources. Together, these political bodies are better able to fight corruption in Africa and bring lasting peace to Somalia.
Rwanda a Success Story in the Fight Against Corruption in Africa
In 2016, it was estimated by the Executive Director of Transparency International Rwanda, Apollinaire Mupiganyi, that Rwandans paid out a little over $40 million in bribes. Despite this, Rwanda remains a country where anti-corruption efforts have begun to make a noticeable difference in how the country is governed. While the situation in Somalia is focused on fighting corruption through law enforcement, Rwanda’s anti-corruption effort is spearheaded by policy and oversight.
The Rwanda Public Procurement Authority is an oversight committee that reviews and either approves or rejects public transactions based on whether or not they were legitimate. Transactions that have been approved hold much more value than transactions that are unapproved. This speaks to the authority of the organization, since its approval has a significant economic impact. In addition, there have also been greater efforts made in tandem with USAID. This means training journalists to be fair and accurate, informing female voters of their rights and working together to ensure legitimate elections.
All of these policies have had a considerable impact. In 1996, Transparency International ranked Rwanda as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, with a dismal score of 20 out of 100. As of 2017, that score has jumped to 55, placing it above the global average of 43. While it is easy to get discouraged when talking about a problem as endemic as corruption in Africa, Rwanda stands as an example that progress can be made.
Ghana Improving Transparency and Fairness in Election Process
Ghana is currently in a state of upheaval. In 2016, the Ghanaian people were so fed up with the rampant corruption in their state that they voted out an incumbent president for the first time in the nation’s history. However, Ghana still faces widespread corruption in the form of police bribes, misuses of power and failures to hold offenders accountable. For example, the former CEO of the Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (a government institution that gives loans to citizens), Sedina Tamakloe Attionu, has been charged with committing fraud by giving desperate Ghanaians unfavorable loans.
USAID is assisting by implementing their Ghana Strengthening Accountability Mechanisms policy. This sets up accountability services in all 50 of Ghana’s districts, enforcing the rule of law. It also runs campaigns with the government to educate the public to hold politicians accountable with their votes. This is done in part by working with the Ghana Electoral Commision to ensure elections are fair and transparent. USAID credits part of the landmark 2016 election to this initiative.
By working together with the African Union to tackle corruption, USAID, the EU and other governing bodies can get the most out of their resources and see results. Corruption in Africa breeds systemic inequality, and anyone who wants to fight poverty on the continent needs to address corruption as well. While there is still progress to be made, these examples show that there is hope for the future of fighting corruption in Africa.
– Jonathon Ayers