2005, the “Year of Africa”, witnessed much discourse and activities culminating in a special focus on Africa at the G8 and UN Summits (see several articles and reports listed on ALPN’s portal pages: Africa & the G8 – 2005 G8 Summit – Reports, Commentaries, Analyses & The Blair Commission for Africa: Commentaries & Critiques).
This brief provides a digest of extensive excerpts from statements, reports, articles, and opinions expressed by several analysts and commentators, the G8, the World Bank (and president Paul Wolfowitz), the Blair Commission for Africa, NEPAD, the Economic Commission for Africa, etc., with respect to governance, corruption, transparency and accountability–critical factors in fostering rapid African progress.
Collectively, the excerpts make a strong argument that the best investment that Africans, rich countries, and the “international community” can make to foster African progress is to provide massive funding for the establishment of strong, independent, and high-impact information infrastructures and networks that focus sharply on transparency and accountability. Such infrastructures and networks would help to create the strong public demand and pressure necessary to make corrupt and repressive governments (and the foreign firms and governments that aid and abet them) more accountable.
The G8 and other rich countries — as well as wealthy foundations and individuals — could establish “African Governance/Transparency/Accountability Capacity Building Funds” for this purpose. With only a small fraction of the billions in aid that will continue to be misused or stolen, such an investment would, in turn, save donors billions of dollars in future aid that would be needed to deal with the worsening poverty, civil strife, wars, etc. that will continue to plague the continent due to poor governance.
Many skeptics, however, contend that the geopolitical, security and economic priorities of rich country governments and firms do not include making the substantial investments necessary to foster transparency and accountability in African countries.
The brief focuses largely on the views expressed by influential people and publications in rich countries, in order to provide readers with a sampling of the discourse, limited as it is, that is going on among those who may have some influence in encouraging rich countries and the international community to invest massively in independent information-based initiatives that will help to promote better governance in Africa.
This brief is part of ALPN’s efforts to galvanize massive investment — financial, intellectual, and other resources — in building strong, independent, and high-impact information infrastructures and networks that will foster transparency and accountability in African countries. The digest of excerpts below will be continually expanded. Please send excerpts from (and Web links to) other documents that merit inclusion, as well as critiques, commentaries, and suggestions, to: email@example.com.
In a related forthcoming piece, we argue:
- Since Africans themselves have the ultimate responsibility for bringing about good governance and better leaderships in their countries, accomplished Africans must become more proactive in this regard, by: (a) supporting the brave people who are already making an impact in several countries, despite their very limited resources; and (b) finding innovative and effective ways to pool their resources, however limited, to establish strong and independent information-based initiatives, with or without help from rich countries and the international community.
- In this regard, “Brain Drain”/Diaspora Africans are particularly well-equipped and well-positioned to take charge and lead efforts to meet this challenge with vigor and utmost dedication, especially as the implementation of some information and capacity building initiatives do not necessarily require such Africans with the requisite skills to be resident in their native countries.
I. The Need for Massive Investment in Independent, High-Impact Information Infrastructures and Networks for Transparency & Accountability: It is unrealistic to expect governments to reform themselves out of power
1. AFRICA AND GLOBAL REALITY: CORRUPTION, TRANSPARENCY, GEOPOLITICS, ECONOMICS, RICH COUNTRIES…& CHINA?
– Reality Check: Global Geopolitics/Security/Economics, Corruption and Transparency
– George Soros on the Resource Curse and Transparency
2. TRANSPARENCY & THE NEED FOR INDEPENDENT MEDIA/INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURES
– A Pan-African Broadcasting Network for Transparency & Accountability?
– Information Disclosure, Public Demand & Accountability
– Freedom, Access to Information & Media Independence in Africa
– “The Challenge of Building a Vibrant Media in Africa”
3. CORRUPT & REPRESSIVE GOVERNMENTS REFORMING THEMSELVES OUT OF POWER?
– NEPAD and the African Peer Review Mechanism
– World Bank: Prerequisites for Good Governance Capacity Building – Visionary Leadership!
II. Will the G8 and Other Rich Countries, the World Bank, etc. Help? Perspectives in the Context of Global Economic and Geopolitical Realities
– The G8, the World Bank, and the Blair Commission for Africa (CfA) on Governance, Corruption, Transparency and Accountability in African Countries
– Perspectives on How the Rich Countries and the World Bank Can Help
– Excerpt from a Transcript of a Panel Discussion During the UN Summit (Sept. 2005), Featuring: President Bill Clinton, Bono, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Wangari Maathai, and others.
III. The Need for Massive Investment in Independent, High-Impact Information Infrastructures and Networks for Transparency & Accountability: It is unrealistic to expect governments to reform themselves out of power
Information is the critical factor in fostering transparency and accountability. Massive funding for the establishment of top-quality, independent, objective, innovative, high-impact information infrastructures and networks in African countries (and, as necessary in certain cases, outside countries) is therefore critical. This would provide direly needed support to the brave people who are willing to work — often at great personal risk — to create the strong public demand and pressure necessary to make governments transparent and accountable.
The information infrastructures and networks would include, for example, strong and influential institutions, groups, and individuals such as: reputable, independent, and vibrant media organizations; top-flight and objective research, information, and advocacy organizations and experts (think-tanks, public education groups, etc.); civil society and private watchdogs; etc. With strong backing, especially from the international community, such organizations and individuals would be able to work vigorously, with much reduced fear of repression and persecution, in critical areas such as:
- monitoring, research, analysis, information dissemination, and public education: leadership performance, policies, public management of resources (revenues, budgets, procurements, contracts, etc.)–to raise awareness on citizens’ rights and entitlements, change mindsets, reduce barriers such as tribal/ethnic divisions which bad regimes exploit to entrench themselves in power, etc.
- access to information (Freedom of Information Acts, etc.), freedom of expression, press freedom, media independence, etc.
- development and advocacy of alternative policies and strategies — “competition in ideas” — for better economic management and leadership
- corrupt and unethical business practices (illegal transactions–illicit funds transfers, tax evasion, etc.) by some foreign firms in African countries
- safe havens for corrupt officials and their stolen assets in rich countries and offshore financial centers, recovery of stolen funds, and related issues
- development of young people with exceptional leadership potential into future visionary and transformational leaders
Clearly, this approach would have much greater impact than the current focus on “governance reforms” implemented by governments themselves (NEPAD’s African Peer Review Mechanism, donor-aided reforms, etc.): it is unrealistic to expect that corrupt, repressive, and unaccountable leaders – who usually scornfully ignore repetitive exhortations for reforms, without penalty – will voluntarily reform themselves out of power.
1. AFRICA AND GLOBAL REALITY: CORRUPTION, TRANSPARENCY, GEOPOLITICS, ECONOMICS, RICH COUNTRIES….& CHINA?
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz on the Two Sides of Corruption (‘Corruptors’ & ‘Corruptees’)
“…And so let’s, especially those of us from so-called the rich countries, developed countries, let’s hold a mirror up to ourselves and remember every corrupt transaction has two parties. (Applause.) If I can coin a term there is a corruptee and there is a corruptor. (Laughter, applause.) And if the African people and their leaders are stepping up to the challenge of dealing with the corruptees, we, if I can speak as a citizen of a developed country – those of us in the developed world, in fact anywhere in the world, have responsibility to address corruptors as well. And to help African countries, as the Nigerian as (sic) seeking to do now, to recover some of the stolen wealth that is sitting in bank accounts where it doesn’t belong. (Applause.) …” “Corruption Takes Two, Wolfowitz Tells Business Leaders.” Text of remarks by World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz at the Corporate Council on Africa’s US-Africa Business Summit Dinner, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. June 23, 2005.
….World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has sworn to crack down on corruption by governments and officials in developing world nations where the bank operates. He has also promised to examine any irregularities within the bank itself, vowing to tackle “difficult issues”. Speaking to employees worldwide, Mr Wolfowitz said the bank had to move “more decisively and energetically”. He said the bank was withholding loans worth $250m (£143m) to Kenya, which is embroiled in a high-level scandal. …”There has to be a lot of teething problems to go from a world where for 50 years the word corruption wasn’t uttered in this institution to actually doing something about it. It doesn’t happen by snapping your fingers,” he said. “I must say I think it was horribly overdue… Wolfowitz ‘to target corruption’, BBC News, 7 Feb 2006.
Reality Check: Global Economics/Geopolitics/Security, Corruption and Transparency
…Old development was based on aid and trade, but there’s a limit to how much aid poor countries can absorb, and trade isn’t a panacea. New development adds a third tool: a focus on governance and transparency in poor countries and also, crucially, among the outside governments and firms that deal with them.
Why are outsiders so important? Because the insiders — the poor countries themselves — face a sort of Catch-22. You can urge a corrupt government to reform itself, but its own corruption constitutes an obstacle. You can dream up development projects to promote better governance: training for judges, civil service reform, budget transparency laws and so on. But how do you administer a project to improve public administration when administration itself is the problem?
Because of this Catch-22, outsiders have to begin by overhauling their own practices and institutions. In the past five years or so, there’s been remarkable progress in this field — much of it driven by newcomers to the development scene such as Global Witness, a terrific activist group in London. Global Witness and its allies are on the brink of persuading the development establishment to give their agenda the priority it deserves. But their momentum may be wrecked by China’s post-Unocal resource strategy.
Global Witness’s successes range from oil to timber to diamonds and from Indonesia to Angola. On oil, the group has argued that while you can’t wish away oil corruption in a country such as Angola, you can require Western oil companies to publish what they pay to the Angolan government so that citizens have at least a theoretical chance to complain if it gets looted. This argument has fathered something called the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a voluntary disclosure code sponsored by the British government.
Global Witness has also pushed a good idea on diamonds. You can’t always stop limb-chopping rebels from capturing African diamond mines, the group has argued, but you can at least try to prevent Westerners from buying their gems and hence financing their butchery. This argument is at the heart of the Kimberley Process, a scheme to track diamonds as they move from legitimate mines to sorting centers in Antwerp to your local jeweler; the aim is to ensure that the next earring you buy won’t finance gangs of killers. This activist idea has also won the eager support of several Western governments.
Most recently, Global Witness has been going after firms that make payments to dubious security forces. Again, you can’t realistically expect to turn Indonesia’s army into a temple of enlightenment, but you can at least hope that Western companies don’t pay for its corruption and brutality. Global Witness claims that the Indonesian operation of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, a U.S. mining firm, has paid large sums to individual police and military officers, including $247,705 to a general with an uncertain human rights record. The group argues that international accounting standards should in the future require multinational companies to publish the details of their payments to security forces.
So the field of internationally driven anti-corruption disclosure is buzzing. But the weakness of these schemes is that they require everyone’s cooperation. If American and European companies reform their behavior, this isn’t going to be enough. Corrupt thugs in the poor world will just do deals instead with companies that don’t care about development or human rights — such as companies from China.
Hence the big post-Unocal danger. China is going to be even hungrier for resource deals than it was before, and the attempt to force higher standards of transparency in poor countries is going to suffer. On a recent trip to China, I asked several Westernized professors about their country’s support for Sudan’s genocidal rulers. Not only did they betray no sympathy for Global Witness’s world view, they weren’t even aware that Chinese involvement in Sudan might be an international issue.
- …The concern is that the war on terror will damage Africa in a similar way to the Cold War. Their real needs disregarded, African countries will be seen merely as battlegrounds, Africans as foot-soldiers or enemies. Meanwhile dictators will be tolerated if they are onside in the war on terror. Their human rights abuses will be ignored and their poor management and endemic corruption tolerated. In a recent survey Africans living in Britain were asked: ‘What do you think is wrong with western policy on Africa’. One of the commonest replies was ‘support for corrupt regimes’. … The securitisation of development could prove damaging to Africa just as it did during the Cold War. Or it may have a positive side, if for example the rich world concludes that the best way of making Africa safe is to join the fight against poverty so that Islamist fundamentalists cannot exploit poverty and injustice for political ends… The Royal African Society, London: “A Message to World Leaders: What about the Damage We Do to Africa?”, June 2005
- …Throughout the region, loyalty and cooperation in the war on terrorism are increasingly important criteria for western political and economic support, allowing recipients of such support to evade scrutiny on issues of corruption, poverty reduction, political freedom, human rights, conflict, etc. African political entrepreneurs have been quick to exploit western sensitivities with regard to the “terrorist” threat in order to further their own vested political and economic interests. Tom Porteous, “Africa’s Twin Curses”, TomPaine.com, January 23, 2006
George Soros on the Resource Curse and Transparency
- …Countries that are rich in natural resources are often poor because exploiting those resources takes precedence over good government. Competing oil and mining companies, backed by their governments, have often been willing to deal with anyone who could assure them of a concession. This has bred corrupt and repressive governments and armed conflict. In Africa, civil wars have devastated resource-rich countries such as Congo, Angola and Sudan. In the Middle East, democracy has failed to materialize. Lifting this resource curse could make a large contribution to alleviating poverty and misery in the world, and there is an international movement aimed at doing just that. The first step is transparency; the second is accountability.
- …Two-thirds of the world’s most impoverished people live in about 60 developing countries or countries in transition to the free market that depend on oil, mining or gas revenues. The recently published transparency index from Save the Children UK, the charity, shows that transparency is the exception, not the rule. Many important producing countries have yet to make even a gesture towards disclosure. Angola, Bolivia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Chad, Mauritania and Gabon are among the countries outside EITI that need to be brought in. There is no reason why big Middle Eastern producers and Indonesia should not join this transparency push and embrace the EITI. It is also critical that state-owned companies, which account for the bulk of global oil and gas production, be subject to full disclosure.” George Soros, “Transparency Can Alleviate Poverty,” Financial Times, March 17, 2005
2. TRANSPARENCY & THE NEED FOR INDEPENDENT MEDIA/INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURES
“A key problem in “leveling the playing field” between the executive branch and other branches of government, and in ensuring that all of them are more accountable to citizens, is a lack of access to basic information about what government is doing and a lack of expertise about what to do with information when it is available.” Open Society Institute, “Promoting Transparency and Accountability”
A Pan-African Broadcasting Network for Transparency & Accountability?
- …If G-8 leaders want to promote good governance in Africa, they should pave the way for a news network that will give corrupt politicians headaches all over the continent…. Such an entity [an independent, indigenous, multimedia, multilingual, pan-continental broadcasting network – owned and managed by Africans], broadcasting on television, radio, and the Internet, would push secretive governments toward greater transparency, foster economic and political ties between distant parts of the continent, and report honestly on events and trends affecting Africans…[T]here will be no shortage of African governments that aim to harass such a network…some Western countries, such as the United States and Britain, may see such an entity as a threat to their carefully crafted communications and public diplomacy strategies… Philip Fiske de Gouveia (Foreign Policy Center, London), “Africa Needs an Al-Jazeera”, Foreign Policy, 6 July 2005
Information Disclosure, Public Demand & Accountability
- …Could poor people themselves demand more of the institutions, schemes and campaigns cooked up to help them? In a few, blessed parts of the world, the poor already know their entitlements and how to press for them. In the Indian state of Kerala, where infant mortality is half that of countries nine times richer, doctors who neglect their duty reportedly risk a beating, and clinics left unmanned attract crowds of angry protesters.
- …Outsiders can help to strengthen the hand of the poor, at modest expense. The World Bank is particularly proud of its efforts to track spending on Ugandan primary schools. Between 1991 and 1995, it discovered, only 13% of funds allocated for schools ever reached them. “Ghost workers” gobbled up about a fifth of the money meant for teachers’ salaries. These striking findings were widely published by schools and local newspapers: parents could find out how much money had been earmarked for a school, and how much had actually reached it. As a result, in 1999 and 2000, about 80-90% of funds reached the schools. The Bank’s survey, which cost $60,000, helped plug a leak in school spending worth over $18m
- ….Tales of corruption, grand and petty, sap the will of donor governments and their taxpayers, who feel their generosity betrayed. But the poor, like everyone else, further their interests as best they can. They do not sit idly by, waiting for a big push. They struggle and cope; some hustle and scheme. It is often only such tenacity that gets them by… The Economist, Special Report: “Aid to Africa: The $25 billion question”, June 30 2005
Freedom, Access to Information & Media Independence in Africa
[Ratings reflect global events from December 1, 2004, through November 30, 2005]
FREE (11 Countries): Benin, Botswana, Cape Verde, Ghana, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, South Africa
PARTLY FREE (24 Countries): Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo (Brazzaville), Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia
NOT FREE (18 Countries): Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Congo (Kinshasa), Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea, Libya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Tunisia, Zimbabwe
(in ranking order, most free first):
FREE (8 Countries): Mali, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, Sao Tome & Principe, Namibia, Benin, and Botswana
PARTLY FREE (16 Countries): Cape Verde, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Lesotho, Comoros, Uganda, Mozambique, Madagascar, Congo (Brazzaville), Tanzania, Nigeria, Niger, Malawi, Guinea-Bissau, Seychelles, Sierra Leone
NOT FREE (29 Countries): Kenya, Central African Republic, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, Zambia, Angola, Gabon, Djibouti, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Chad, Guinea, Liberia, Togo, Burundi, Swaziland, Tunisia, Congo (Kinshasa), Somalia, Rwanda, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Libya.
“The Challenge of Building a Vibrant Media in Africa”
“Much of the discussion on civil society coalesced around the role of the media as societal watchdogs. Participants agreed that most African countries possessed weak independent media, including radio. Nevertheless, it was still possible for media, whether state-owned or private, to build their capacity to act as guardians of public accountability and transparency. One solution proposed by participants in media focus group discussions was to encourage African journalist unions to adopt a Media Charter that would spell out the roles and responsibilities inherent to a responsible media….
The media has a crucial role not only in denouncing corruption, but also in raising awareness among stakeholders as to the aspirations of a given society. As a watchdog, it is important that the media maintains its objectivity, reporting and questioning what it witnesses. Part of the challenge of maintaining media neutrality on the continent is the very low salary-base of those in the profession, which increases favour exchange policies between newsrooms and politicians, for example. For a society to consider that the press is actually free, there needs to be a guarantee of financial independence. If the media relies solely on government advertising as its primary source of revenue, it is likely to remain bound to government policy. However, legislation can be promoted to guarantee that government advertisement revenue will be equitable amongst all of a country’s media. The ideal is a demand-driven media, where there is commercial advertising in a prospering market economy, as well as an informed audience that demands quality objective programming.” Economic Commission for Africa, Final Report – African Development Forum IV – Governance for a Progressing Africa. 2004.
3. CORRUPT & REPRESSIVE GOVERNMENTS REFORMING THEMSELVES OUT OF POWER?
NEPAD and the African Peer Review Mechanism
“Africa faces grave challenges and the most urgent of these are the eradication of poverty and the fostering of socio-economic development, in particular, through democracy and good governance. It is to the achievement of these twin objectives that the NEPAD process is principally directed.” NEPAD Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance
“There is a pressing need for the implementation of a bold and innovative programme to effectively develop and use Africa’s governance capacity. We need to implement a bold, cross-cutting and comprehensive, Africa-led programme for capacity development, backed with substantial funding from our international development partners.” “Foreword” by K. Y. Amoako (Executive Secretary, ECA) in “Striving for Good Governance in Africa – Synopsis of the African Governance Report 2005”]
…The irony is that the type of good governance solutions advanced by the NEPAD would deprive such rulers of the means to maintain their patronage networks. To have an Africa grounded on the governance principles of the NEPAD would actually erode the base upon which the state is predicated. And yet we are expected to believe that the very same African elites who benefit from the neo-patrimonial state will now commit a form of class suicide. The possibility seems improbable. Trying to enlist the support of elites who are expected to undermine their own positions and the positions of their patrons is naive. The whole system is based on privatized patronage and the prohibition and erosion of real, functioning democracy–in other words, broad accountability. To begin implementing and operating by the rubric of “good governance” would inevitably damage the incumbent elites’ own personalized grip on the system and reduce their ability to service their clients, inevitably leading to their loss of power.
As a result, any monitoring of governance standards and the improvement in democratic principles on the continent cannot remain elite-driven nor, from the perspective of the donor community, dependent upon the whims of the elites within government. It is a nonsensical strategy to rely on the Big Men to be the engines of positive change in Africa. Whilst the NEPAD remains so dependent upon corrupt dictators to miraculously embrace good governance and democracy, something which goes against the very logic of their own rule, its project to promote the continent’s regeneration in the new millennium, will likely remain stillborn. Africa’s peoples must be the engineers of their own liberation, not wait passively, hoping for “change” to emerge from the clouds or fall from the table of the Big Men like so many crumbs of bread. The international community’s role should be to support this self-liberation, not legitimize the illegitimate.. Ian Taylor (University of Botswana), “Why NEPAD and African Politics Don’t Mix”, Foreign Policy In Focus, February 16, 2004.
…You can urge a corrupt government to reform itself, but its own corruption constitutes an obstacle. You can dream up development projects to promote better governance: training for judges, civil service reform, budget transparency laws and so on. But how do you administer a project to improve public administration when administration itself is the problem?… Sebastian Mallaby, “The Next Chinese Threat”, Washington Post, August 8, 2005
…When the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) was launched nearly four years ago, it quickly became a source of inspiration and hope for many on the continent. Now Nepad appears to be languishing. Progress on peer review has been slow and no identifiable development projects have yet been implemented. Last week, few heads of state attended a summit in Egypt to discuss Nepad, raising serious questions about the political commitment of African leaders to the wider project.
But perhaps the most damning indication of Nepad’s diminished stature was a remark last year from one of Nepad’s founders, Senegalese President Abdulaye Wade. Wade said he had great difficulty explaining what had been achieved when people at home and elsewhere inquired about the scheme.
The general principles of Nepad over which Africans have a degree of control are around conflict resolution, good governance and promoting development projects that have regional benefits. Nepad also stresses the importance of opening up industrial-country markets to African goods, but Africans have little influence over this, except through their lobbying efforts.
There has been definite progress on conflict resolution in a number of countries. Recent peace accords in Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire are encouraging, as is the move to elections in Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo. But there has been a disappointing lack of collective political will in the case of the ongoing violence in the Darfur region of Sudan, and on the disputed elections and poor governance in Zimbabwe.
The commitment of Nepad to good governance, namely through the peer review mechanism, has become a cornerstone of Nepad’s implementation. As no peer review reports have been released, it is too early to make a judgment on the role of these as a means of improving governance.
But there have been worrying delays in its implementation. Three years ago, senior officials were promising peer review reports within a few months. The delays may be due to a lack of resources and a desire to ensure that the initial reports are thorough, which we would support. But the delays could also give rise to suspicions of political interference or deal-making, both of which must be dispelled with the timely release of the reports.
If the mechanism is to succeed, countries will have to regard it as a badge of honour, and not as something to fear. This is a hard sell, but the alternative is that even countries signing up will not co-operate fully.
A report was to have been presented at last week’s Nepad meeting on reviews of Ghana, Rwanda, Mauritius and Kenya. Only the reports on Ghana and Rwanda were ready, as there had been little co-operation from officials in the other two countries. That raises further concern about whether some countries are simply signing up for peer review to gain the prestige and then seeking to delay visits of reporting teams or the release of the report itself.
So after four years, Nepad’s progress on bricks and mortar projects has been pitiful. …
“A Nepad Champion”, Business Day (South Africa), 26 April 2005
World Bank: Prerequisites for Good Governance Capacity Building – Visionary Leadership!
- …Where countries have a workable baseline of civil service capabilities and a visionary leadership, possibilities exist for a comprehensive program of capacity building…
- …In Africa the record of reforms has been mixed. A survey of World Bank operations in twenty-one African countries showed far-reaching gains in public administrative capacity only in countries with a strongly pro-development political environment. …Lessons from the last six years also show that the roots of corruption too lie in dysfunctional state institutions. Anticorruption campaigns can play a valuable role but only when used in tandem with institutional interventions… World Bank, “Building State Capacity For Good Governance In Africa Requires A Paradigm Shift” (Press Release, November 16, 2004)
II. Will the G8 and Other Rich Countries, the World Bank, etc. Help? Perspectives in the Context of Global Economic and Geopolitical Realities
The G8 and other rich countries, the World Bank, the Blair Commission for Africa, etc. have made numerous pronouncements on the critical importance of transparency, accountability, and good governance to African progress, and their willingness to help African countries in this regard.
Much of governance-related aid is still provided to governments to reform themselves, which, not surprisingly (and as the World Bank itself has acknowledged), has had limited impact. The Bank and several donor agencies fund numerous civil society capacity building initiatives, but the amounts provided for those focused on transparency and accountability are miniscule relative to the challenges and difficult tasks that must be accomplished in most countries, given the awesome resources and power of repressive governments.
So will rich countries back their pronouncements with the substantial resources required to establish strong and independent information infrastructures and networks?
Many skeptics contend that the economic, geopolitical and security priorities of rich country governments and firms do not include making the substantial investments necessary to foster transparency and accountability in African countries.
The G8, the World Bank, and the Blair Commission for Africa (CfA) on Governance, Corruption, Transparency and Accountability in African Countries
- …Without progress in governance, all other reforms will have limited impact… Report of the Blair Commission for Africa (CfA)
- …Building capable and honest states involves fostering transparency, accountability and voice, but also requires improving the performance of key state institutions. Strengthening effective in-country capacity building and governance—especially regarding budgetary expenditure and revenue management, as well as strengthening institutions that check corruption—are at the core of the Action Plan… Meeting the Challenge of Africa’s Development: A World Bank Group Action Plan (September 2005)
- …Transformational change in a poor country cannot be imposed from the outside, not by the (development) Banks, and not by donor governments. There must be national leadership and local support for transformational change to remove the impediments to microeconomic reform, to clean up corruption in the political system, and to make public management more accountable and transparent. What causes this leadership to form and act should be a question of considerable interest to us. Part of the answer lies in the nature of the incentive system in the international aid community… USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios, “Challenging Orthodoxy: Changing Perspectives on Development.” October 21, 2002.
- …We will support African countries’ efforts to make their governments more transparent, capable and responsive to the will of their people; improve governance at the regional level and across the continent; and strengthen the African institutions that are essential to this…[We will support] greater transparency in public financial management, including revenues, budgets and expenditure, licences, procurement and public concessions, including through increased support to capacity building in those African countries that are taking credible action against corruption and increasing transparency and accountability…
- “To further protect the international financial system from illicit corruption proceeds, we encourage all countries to require enhanced due diligence for financial transactions involving politically exposed persons. In addition, we urge all countries to comply with UN Security Council resolution 1532 to identify and freeze the assets of designated persons…Reduce bribery by the private sector by rigorously enforcing laws against the bribery of foreign public officials, including prosecuting those engaged in bribery; strengthening anti-bribery requirements for those applying for export credits and credit guarantees, and continuing our support for peer review, in line with the OECD Convention; encouraging companies to adopt anti-bribery compliance programmes and report solicitations of bribery; and by committing to co-operate with African governments to ensure the prosecution of those engaged in bribery and bribe solicitation…Take concrete steps to protect financial markets from criminal abuse, including bribery and corruption, by pressing all financial centres to obtain and implement the highest international standards of transparency and exchange of information… G8 Communique on Africa (2005 Gleneagles Summit), “Africa: A Historic Opportunity”
Perspectives on How the Rich Countries and the World Bank Can Help
“…If G-8 leaders want to promote good governance in Africa, they should pave the way for a news network that will give corrupt politicians headaches all over the continent…[T]here will be no shortage of African governments that aim to harass such a network…some Western countries, such as the United States and Britain, may see such an entity as a threat to their carefully crafted communications and public diplomacy strategies.” Philip Fiske de Gouveia (Foreign Policy Center, London), “Africa Needs an Al-Jazeera”, Foreign Policy, 6 July 2005
…On this issue of illicit outflows from poorer countries, silence is a killer, and from the World Bank the silence is deafening. Frankly, the Bank is letting the poor down. Addressing this subject requires the bank to place the alleviation of poverty and inequality above its predisposition to avoid self-criticism and to avoid confronting its rich patrons. The World Bank has a responsibility to the billions living severely deprived existences, like Mary on her knees, to raise the profile of this issue to the highest level and to press it upon the global agenda. It has a responsibility to exert leadership with the richer nations on this reality that undermines its success (p. 276). …Dirty money is the biggest loophole in the free market system and…is also the most damaging economic condition hurting the poor. Therefore the best thing that can be done to lift people out of poverty and cut inequality is to clean up the global financial system …In fact, more important than all four combined–free trade, export promotion, economic assistance, and foreign investment–clean up the global financial system (pp. 351-352)… Raymond Baker, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, in: Capitalism’s Achilles Heel: Dirty Money and How to Renew the Free-Market System (Wiley, 2005)
…Disturbingly, this capital flight out of Africa is on the rise so any rise in aid threatens to be eroded by money flowing out. Clearly, plugging the leaks must be the top priority. By far the biggest leak is the widespread and pernicious mispricing of exports and imports to shift profits out of the country. For example, African diamonds have been exported by businesses at a book price of a fraction of their true value so the real profits only show up in offshore locations.
Firms, especially multinationals, are the biggest culprits using a sophisticated network of notional companies in tax havens to hide billions of dollars of profits from the taxman. The secretive practices of banks in these jurisdictions make it almost impossible to bring the culprits to book. Other leaks such as criminal proceeds from trafficking and racketeering, and corrupt proceeds from greedy officials are important but much smaller and piggyback on the sophisticated money-moving apparatus set up by western banks and businesses.
Plugging the leaks would allow developing countries to cut their reliance on western governments and the IMF, and reject damaging enforced privatisations and trade liberalisation so often attached as conditions to aid and loans. Tax havens and banking secrecy cause poverty by facilitating the leakage of scarce money out of developing countries. They also help rich elites and businesses avoid billions of dollars in taxes that could otherwise finance the building of hospitals and schools.
Co-ordinated international action towards shutting down tax havens, eliminating banking secrecy and automatically exchanging information between tax jurisdictions would plug the biggest leaks. While the incentive for developing countries to act is clear, the hundreds of billions of dollars that rich countries lose in tax revenues are now threatening the very existence of the welfare state. Britain alone loses more than £50bn in taxes every year….
“…Tony Blair rather undiplomatically called Africa ‘a scar on the conscience of the world’ but is Britain helping to heal it? Or are we actually causing it to fester? …Despite putting African issues at the top of the agenda in international fora this year and despite specific recommendations by the Commission for Africa on fighting corruption, the government has yet to commit itself to enacting comprehensive and up to date laws to tackle the problem and providing agencies with resources and power to enforce them…Repatriating the proceeds of overseas corruption will require real political will and the necessary funding. Funding is a key indicator of the importance – or lack of it – attached to the involvement of Britons and British based companies and banks in corruption in Africa. The unit charged with investigating corruption is under funded and under resourced. …We have heard a lot of rhetoric from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor about debt forgiveness and aid, but little about implementing the UN Convention on Corruption or curbing the activities of British arms dealers, both recommendations urged by his Commission for Africa. Signing cheques for debt relief or aid is one thing. Changing laws and systems is more difficult but, if the British government is serious about helping Africa, that is what it must do.” …
“The concern is that the war on terror will damage Africa in a similar way to the Cold War. Their real needs disregarded, African countries will be seen merely as battlegrounds, Africans as foot-soldiers or enemies. Meanwhile dictators will be tolerated if they are onside in the war on terror. Their human rights abuses will be ignored and their poor management and endemic corruption tolerated. In a recent survey Africans living in Britain were asked: ‘What do you think is wrong with western policy on Africa’. One of the commonest replies was ‘support for corrupt regimes’. … The securitisation of development could prove damaging to Africa just as it did during the Cold War. Or it may have a positive side, if for example the rich world concludes that the best way of making Africa safe is to join the fight against poverty so that Islamist fundamentalists cannot exploit poverty and injustice for political ends. This may mean increased aid to Africa, especially to the poorest areas. Even in the current international climate where tackling terrorism is the top priority, the priorities of good governance must not be ignored for wider strategic reasons and African countries should not get typecast as unstable or havens for terrorists.” The Royal African Society, London, “A Message to World Leaders: What about the Damage We Do to Africa?”
…Foreign funds can help only those African countries that undertake political, economic, and institutional reform, but the commitment to reform has been woefully lacking. The democratization process in Africa has stalled through political chicanery and strong-arm tactics. Only 16 of the 54 African countries are democratic, and political tyranny remains the order of the day. Often, those countries that are democratic remain deeply corrupt. Intellectual freedom is stuck in the Stalinist era: only eight African countries have free and independent media. The record on economic reform is abysmal. Only Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, and South Africa can be described as “success stories.” At the July 2004 African Union Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, frustrated UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told African leaders of their lack of progress on meeting the UN’s Millennium Development Goals that they agreed to in 2000. Four years earlier, he was less restrained, lashing out at African leaders and blaming them for most of the continent’s problems.
African children echo the same sentiments. At the United Nations Children’s Summit held in May 2002 in New York, youngsters from Africa ripped into their leaders for failing to improve their education and health. “You get loans that will be paid in 20 to 30 years and we have nothing to pay them with, because when you get the money, you embezzle it, you eat it,” said 12-year-old Joseph Tamale from Uganda.20 Tony Blair and Jeffrey Sachs should listen to the voices of average Africans, who have not benefited from aid in the past and are unlikely to benefit in the future. Without domestic reforms, African politicians will line their pockets, but Africa will remain desperately poor.
Excerpt From a Transcript of a Panel Discussion During the UN Summit (Sept. 2005), Featuring: President Bill Clinton, Bono, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Wangari Maathai, and others.
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL: “CNN Connects”. Aired September 17, 2005
Thompson Ayodele, Franklin Cudjoe, Temba A. Nolutshungu, and Charles K. Sunwabe, “African Perspectives on Aid: Foreign Assistance Will Not Pull Africa Out of Poverty”, Cato Institute Economic Development Bulletin, September 14, 2005.
….2005 was dubbed the “year of Africa” by the G8 and it brought some welcome progress in conflict resolution on a continent which has had more than its share of political instability: a peace deal in Sudan was finalized, U.N. peacekeepers left Sierra Leone, elections were held in Liberia and Burundi, even the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo appeared to be moving forward.
But Africa’s troubles are not over. There are continuing armed conflicts in Sudan (Darfur), Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda, Nigeria, Somalia and increasing tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea and between Sudan and Chad. Those countries where peace has been achieved remain vulnerable to future conflict. Throughout the continent effective formulae for the emergence of representative states capable of delivering successful economic development, justice and security remain elusive.
On top of Africa’s internal problems there are also two non-African issues which are hampering efforts to resolve conflicts and to promote better government and economic development.
The first is the industrialized world’s increasing thirst and competition for African oil, which seems to take precedence over pious statements about African development.
Oil has long been a curse for most people in oil producing countries in Africa. Countries like Nigeria (where almost a fifth of all Africans south of the Sahara live, Angola and Equatorial Guinea would probably be better off—less corrupt, violent, unstable and poverty-stricken—had they left the black stuff in the ground.
Since their public relations disasters in Africa in the 1990s (the execution of the Nigerian rights activist Ken Saro Wiwa in the Niger Delta; the Angolan oil-for-arms scandal), the oil majors have spent millions of dollars trying to brush up their “corporate governance” credentials. But in reality little has changed, as the latest spike in violence in Niger Delta and the continuing flagrant and debilitating corruption at the heart of Nigerian and Angolan politics demonstrate.
Now the oil curse is spreading to other African states and it is increasingly accompanied by competition for political and economic influence between China and the West.
Concerned about their image (and U.S. sanctions) most Western oil companies withdrew from Sudan some time ago. But they were soon replaced by Chinese and other companies, which have been accused of complicity in serious human rights abuses.
The oil started to flow in 1999 and the prospect of billions of dollars of oil revenue may well have helped to grease Sudan’s peace deal. Sharing the money between north and south was a major element of the agreement. But oil is unlikely to nurture the emergence of good, representative government in either part of the country.
Indeed the abject marginalization of the vast majority of Sudanese from economic and political power is contributing to the conflict in Darfur (where there are unconfirmed rumors of new oil discoveries) and to unrest elsewhere in Sudan. The Sudanese government provided a good indication of its main priority (political survival) when it spent some of its early oil revenue building an arms factory.
In Chad, the situation is little better. When commercial oil reserves were discovered there, few expected that the oil would benefit any but the elite. To get political cover therefore for its operation in this notoriously unstable country, the lead oil company in Chad, Exxon Mobile, persuaded the World Bank to come on board. The World Bank agreed to fund a pipeline to carry the oil from Chad through Cameroon to the Atlantic. In return, Chad’s government agreed that a proportion of the oil revenue would be put aside for economic and social development and poverty reduction.
The oil started to flow in 2003. But last year the Chadian regime started to come under political pressure. Oil revenues were massively increasing the stakes of power. The war in neighboring Darfur, Sudan was spilling over the border. Chad’s regime needed cash to buy guns and political loyalty. Predictably, the government has now reneged on the deal with the World Bank, enacting laws that effectively cancel the arrangement. And if Exxon Mobile pulls out, China is waiting to step in.
The second non-African problem Africa could do without is the West’s “war on terrorism.” Increasingly since 9/11, the entire predominantly Muslim belt running from the Horn of Africa through Sudan and the Sahel to West Africa has been regarded as a front in this war.
There is, of course, solid evidence of Al Qaeda activity in Sub-Saharan Africa. The worst pre-9/11 Al Qaeda attack on the U.S. took place in Africa—the simultaneous U.S. embassy bombings in Dar Es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998. But if counter-terrorist activities in Africa are to avoid contributing to Africa ‘s instability and undermining intern ational and African efforts in the fields of conflict resolution and state building, a nuanced, comprehensive and coordinated counterterrorism strategy is required
At first it looked as though such an approach might be adopted: 9/11 certainly helped to focus U.S. and British diplomatic minds on the task of achieving peace in Sudan. But increasingly it looks as though the strategy is being narrowly focused on security and intelligence gathering: for example the establishment of bases and launch pads for counter-terrorist strikes, and the provision of political support, military training, equipment and arms to cooperative local regimes whose territory is considered vulnerable to terrorist penetration.
This could prove to be as counter-productive in Africa, as it has been in the Middle East, alienating and radicalizing local Muslims and exacerbating or creating the problem it is supposed to address. Throughout the region, loyalty and cooperation in the war on terrorism are increasingly important criteria for western political and economic support, allowing recipients of such support to evade scrutiny on issues of corruption, poverty reduction, political freedom, human rights, conflict, etc. African political entrepreneurs have been quick to exploit western sensitivities with regard to the “terrorist” threat in order to further their own vested political and economic interests.
For example, the Islamist regime in Khartoum enjoys political favors and access in Washington on account of its considerable intelligence on Al Qaeda, even though it stands accused by the U.S. itself of genocide in Darfur. In Somalia,local warlords and the Ethiopian government have used the terrorist card to justify violent pursuit of political and strategic goals and to exclude or eliminate their political enemies. With Islamism now the dominant (but to the west unacceptable) political force in Somalia, the war on terror makes peaceful resolution of the two decade old Somali crisis even more difficult to achieve.
Not much was said about the impacts on Africa of oil and the war on terrorism during the G8 discussions on Africa last year. The G8 talked mostly about why Africa matters (standard answer: “because Africa is a source of terrorism, crime, HIV, illegal immigrants, etc.”); and how to fix Africa (standard answer: “give it more money”).
This is a pity. Putting Africa right involves not just money, but getting Africa right: understanding how Africa works and why, and designing smart strategies that address Africa’s diverse, difficult and often messy politics. It also involves a better appreciation not of how Africa affects the rest of the world (real answer: not very much), but of how the behavior of the rest of the world affects Africa.
Tom Porteous, “Africa’s Twin Curses”, TomPaine.com, January 23, 2006
[Excerpt from a “rush transcript”]
Moderator: Christiane Amanpour (CNN)
ANNOUNCER: Now your host, Christiane Amanpour.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you and welcome to this special edition of CNN CONNECTS. Here in New York at the time of the U.N. General Assembly Summit, the annual summit and also when President Clinton launches his global initiative to tackle the issues that you saw in that report.
How will we rescue our planet from the kind of crippling poverty that causes nearly a billion people a year to try to struggle to stay alive on less than a dollar a day? How will we rescue our planet from the climate change that is causing potentially more intense weather storms such as Hurricane Katrina? How will we save our planet from Islamic extremists and any other religious extremists who want to deny people their rights, based on what they think is right for the world.
And what will we do about good government? How will we hold leaders accountable to their people, even leaders who’ve been elected? We have an incredibly distinguished panel here to discuss these issues. Of course, President Clinton, whose global initiative this is, and it is being launched today.
We have Bono, the U2 lead singer, rock star, who has made consigning poverty to the dustbin of history, his mission. We have Queen Rania of Jordan, who is incredibly interested and active in the issue of micro finance, poverty, the equality for women and also about trying to keep the Middle East as part of an active member of the world community. Paul Wolfowitz used to be deputy defense secretary and now is the head of the World Bank. Jeffrey Saks, the director of the U.N. Millennium Project, who is involved in trying to eradicate extreme poverty. And of course, Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work on the environment, and who believes that poverty is inextricably linked with what is happening to our environment.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Wolfowitz, for many, many years the issue of development has been linked to the issue of good government, of trying to get the governments that you’re trying to help to be transparent, to be accountable, not to be corrupt. Is it time, do you think, to cut through that debate? Because we face an emergency now of people living in extreme poverty and actually get to those people who really need it without holding their lives and their fate hostage to what their governments will or will not do?
WOLFOWITZ: You know, I think it is very important to keep in mind, as we talk about particularly the situation of Africa, which is desperate that in the last 20 years have probably seen the greatest progress in a couple of centuries in reducing poverty. Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, particularly in China, increasingly in India and Latin America, by successful policies by the countries themselves that have produced spectacular economic growth, especially in East Asia.
And the danger, or the tragedy today is the 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have been left behind by that progress, and poverty’s actually increased in the last ten years.
But I don’t think you can cut the tie between development and governance. Absolutely, if you can deliver relief to people who need it, and President Clinton’s absolutely right, you meet poor people, they are desperate not primarily for themselves, but to give a better life for their children but if they’re trapped in a system where assistance is stolen by officials, it’s not going to work.
WOLFOWITZ: Christiane, just if I could say one thing, too, on what Queen Rania said, I don’t think it’s a choice between improving governance and increasing assistance. I think you have to have both. But when you talk about improving governance, it’s not just governments. It’s civil society. It’s the things that Gramin Bank has done on their own in Bangladesh or the things that Wangari Maathai — governance comes at all levels of society. ….
AMANPOUR: We’ve been talking about how to eradicate extreme poverty and how to hold governments responsible and accountable to their people. We talked a little bit about corruption, not just the corruption that exists in some governments around the world, but Western corruption, those who actually pay bribes and do similar things in order to get contracts…..
WOLFOWITZ: Well, I think that’s their responsibility. But I would say one other thing, punishing corrupters is important but I think what we’ve found even more important is telling people where their money is going.
In Uganda there was an experiment — not an experiment, a project that showed local school districts how much money they were supposed to be getting. It turned out they were getting 10 percent of what they were supposed to get and as soon they began to publish those numbers the numbers turned around.
BONO: It’s called the Poverty Action Fund and it was where they ring-fenced monies, particularly in debt cancellation that we did with President Clinton’s administration and you can see where the money is going. And as a result of that improvement there are nearly three times as many children going to school in Uganda now than were five or six years ago.
This just is very real. It’s just an important thing because you think all this stuff goes on and on. There’s a real, concrete example of what smart strategy and money provide.
CLINTON: But at first, we didn’t know what to do, because that was part of the debt relief. They had to do it to get the debt relief. And they overnight doubled enrollment, and now it’s tripled, because they could follow the money. And that’s what we’ve tried to do with all this tsunami money. But Wangari’s right but I sort of side with Mr. Wolfowitz on this. I think for us to be pointing our fingers at people that have been used to getting this kind of money we look hypocritical unless we have really tough laws. America’s got better laws than most rich countries, and ours could be tougher.