But what is the real cause of all this corruption? All the official Western aid agencies (the UN, the World Bank, the IMF), Western governments and NGOs blame it on corrupt Africans or corrupt African governments, and claim this is why the war against poverty is going so badly. They also use it to excuse the massive failure of the MDGs.
That is rubbish! They have used corruption and corrupt governments as a convenient whipping boy for Western aid and development policies in Africa which could not possibly have succeeded (and will succeed no better with the West-inspired Agenda 2030 and its SDGs).
What the official Western aid agencies are not telling you is that African corruption is largely caused by the West!
For a start, it is the West (with a lot of help more latterly from China) that is helping to keep Africa’s corrupt governments in power. In Zimbabwe’s case, without Western and Chinese support, it is possible Mugabe’s regime would have collapsed years ago.
Let’s look at Zimbabwe to see how the system works. I’m not saying Morgan Tsvangirai or the next Zimbabwean leader will be corrupt – I simply don’t know. But when Mugabe is overthrown by the Zimbabwean opposition, whom do you suppose will leap in with financial support to help them stay in power?
The good old UN, World Bank, IMF will all come flocking in.
NGOs will put huge resources in.
Western multi-national companies (MNCs) will renegotiate bribes and “kick-backs” with Africans in positions of authority in order to further their own commercial interests, which include continuing the rape of Africa’s raw materials, and buying national assets at knock-down prices.
You see, what every opposition leader knows is that, if they can only take power, they will be rewarded with millions or billions of US$ in aid and development, as well as Western arms to help them keep power. First of all, how many even honest people will not cave in in the face of so much wealth being thrust at them? Especially when they and their families will probably have come from backgrounds of extreme poverty?
If the West (and China) gave no aid, how many of these “robber barons” would seek to take power if they knew their only source of income would come from their ability to build up their national economies and the wealth of their citizens (to generate lots of personal income tax)?
The fact is, even in business, few genuinely caring people can compete against robbers whose main motivation is to feather their own nests. And when a genuinely caring African leader such as Patrice Lumumba of DR Congo does manage to gain power, he has generally been quickly brought down by the robbers. A lion is no match for a bunch of snarling, snapping hyenas.
The result is that when African citizens want to get rid of a repressive government, their only choice is almost always another repressive government. In fairness, there are some African governments trying to do the right thing, but their attempts to do so get foiled or undermined by a powerful cadre of corrupt Africans who do not want the status quo upset.
We talk of African corruption, but in fact foreign MNCs take 50% more out of Africa than corrupt Africans do, by way of tax avoidance and profits. But even that is as nothing compared to the raw materials and African assets they take with little or no benefit to ordinary African citizens.
But it is no good stealing unless you can find someone to buy your stolen goods. And where do Africans hide their ill-gotten gains? In Western tax havens, banks and property. One estimate puts this figure at US$500 billion, or one-third of all Africa’s financial wealth.
The West claims to be policing its banks and financial institutions with anti-money laundering and other regulations. But corrupt Africans will tell you privately that these are simple to get around. So easy, in fact, that foreign MNCs also use these same hiding holes for the money they take out of Africa.
To put this into perspective, $500 billion is more than the TOTAL annual income of ALL Africa nations, and 62 times the average of African countries. If African citizens went about it in the right way, they could confiscate all this and use it as a major kick-start to help themselves and their nations out of poverty.
The official Western aid agencies and all Western governments are also fully aware that the amount the West gets from Africa far exceeds all the aid and development it gives to Africa. One estimate is that the West gets $41 billion a year more than it gives, or five times that average income of African nations. How can any population possibly escape poverty under these circumstances? They can’t.
In other words, it is a fallacy that African citizens are being kept in poverty by their own Black African elite. It is far worse than that: what is keeping them in poverty is an unholy alliance of their own Black African elite and Western commercial and financial interests.
The upshot is that just getting rid of African corruption will not solve the problem. It has to be done in conjunction with stopping the West exploiting Africa. This simply will not happen because it is not in the West’s interests (or China’s, for that matter).
The other aspect never talked about is corruption among the West’s own aid workers. I want to make it clear: the majority are truly good people genuinely wanting to make things better for African citizens, and many have given their lives to Africa through disease, even torture, and murder.
But there is a large minority who are abusing their donors’ money, and you can see them around hotel swimming pools every afternoon, often with their Black African “girlfriends”.
I have personal experience of this corruption. I and my then business partner, David Speakman, at one stage stayed for some months in a low-cost motel that was also used for aid seminars. Although comfortably up to Western standards, most of the attendees still chose to stay in one of Kampala’s expensive luxury hotels.
Those aid workers who did stay in the motel were critical of the aid organisations for allowing this and their fellow aid workers for taking advantage of it. Some seminars were so bad they were clearly just shoddily-prepared time-fillers, excuses to collect fees or organised to look good on a jobs-worth’s record. Scheduled for 9.00 a.m., they often did not start until 10.30. Even then, delegates openly drifted out to make phone calls planning their social life—we could hear them. To prove they had attended, aid workers only had to sign in but that was no guarantee they would stay to the end. And there would be a lot of empty seats after lunch.
Even if only a minority of White aid workers are corrupt, aid ‘bosses’ need to deal with them because they tarnish the reputations and memories of those who are genuine, committed and hard working. Remember, as I said, many have given their lives or suffered in other ways for Africa.
The theft of aid and development money is easy because it is so badly policed – despite what NGOs and Western governments and the official Western aid agencies say. Even in the West, any sensible business knows that, unless it polices its employees properly, it is tempting them, indeed encouraging them, to be corrupt, and Westerners should not expect Africans to behave any differently. So aid organisations must assume that much of their aid will go astray unless they police it properly. Had all Western sources taken this elementary precaution, African politicians and bureaucrats would have found it almost impossible to steal any significant amounts. But the UK’s “The Telegraph” reports that its own government is grossly negligent in this area: “A report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact……found that taxpayers’ money spent abroad [by DFID, the UK government department for dispensing foreign aid] was actively encouraging corrupt practices”.
Remember, this is actually helping to keep corrupt, inefficient or brutal governments in power, and is thus contributing to the perpetuation of extreme poverty. Yet, despite knowing some of it will go missing, the West continues to send vast amounts of aid and development to Africa.
But this needs to be put into perspective. Although corruption certainly does not help, it is not why the war against poverty continues to fail so badly. It would have done so anyway, and just as badly because the West’s bungled attempt sat poverty eradication could scarcely have been more wrong, and it is running a bound-to-fail system.
The vicious cycle of African citizens usually only having the choice of a corrupt opposition to take over from a corrupt government can now be broken, thanks to the AU. It has come out with its Agenda 2063 and accompanying First Ten-Year Implementation Plan 2014-2024. This has been signed up to by every African government, part of which is a commitment by them to promote Agenda 2063 among their citizens.
As we know, not one government has carried out what it agreed to do. All governments also agreed to make Agenda 2063 the basis for their manifestos. Again, not one has done so.
When you read Agenda 2063 and the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan, you can see why: Africa is to be “driven by its own citizens”. Agenda 2063 will “ensure the full participation of African peoples in the development and economic integration of the continent”. “All the citizens of Africa will be actively involved in decision making in all aspects”, and other such-like sentiments. And this, of course, is the last thing Africa’s current governments want! Can you see Mugabe letting this happen, even though he has already signed up to do so?
The other thing Agenda 2063 will do is to stop all further foreign interference in Africa, cutting off the potential for foreign corruption in Africa. It knows that Africa is perfectly capable of taking control of its own development, and it lays out the exact steps for doing so.
But Zimbabweans themselves can ensure that whichever government ousts Mugabe does make Agenda 2063 the basis for its manifesto. Indeed, Agenda 2063 specifically asks them to do this, and not vote for them if they don’t. If Zimbabweans do that, it will leave little room for corruption, of for repression.
But as to whether Zimbabweans will do that all depends upon how much they really want to escape oppression and poverty.Post published in: Featured