Addis Ababa — Africa needs to invest in corruption prevention strategies if the continent is to achieve sustainable development that will not leave anyone behind, says United Nations Under Secretary General and Special Adviser on Africa, Bience Gawanas.
Speaking at a two-day Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa (RCM) meeting that is being held in Addis Ababa one the sidelines of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Ms. Gawanas said preventing graft would help save the continent billions of dollars.
"Corruption is a clear and present threat to achieving a sustainable path to Africa's transformation," she said, adding graft was not only hindering essential services delivery but also undermining governments by destroying public trust and eroding the rule of law; increasing inequality and hindering national and local economic development.
Ms. Gawanas said corruption threatened the continent's peace and security, especially with its youthful population looking for equal opportunity, inclusive growth, decent jobs, good education and health care systems.
"Today's youth are not ones who will sit quietly when faced with injustice. When governments and institutions loose this public trust because of corruption, they squander hard-fought gains in sustainable development, social cohesion as well as peace and security," the Special Adviser said.
She said given the global nature of corruption, the UN had a great convening power to help fight the scourge, adding her office will continue to dedicate its resources to finding a cure for graft.
"We need to empower African civil society organizations, the media and ordinary citizens to call out corruption whether it is petty bribery or political corruption," said Ms. Gawanas, adding more importantly was the need to empower citizens to peacefully demand action against corruption and end the perception of impunity.
In most cases, she said, it is the 'small fish' who go to jail while those stealing billions from state coffers and institutions roam free.
"We need to strengthen judicial systems so that they are strong enough to withstand pressure when they go after high profile corruption cases. Governments also need to reward good behavior and not persecute whistleblowers," added Ms. Gawanas.
"On a more personal note, I have spent all my life fighting for social justice and equal opportunities for everyone. I know very well that corruption is a disease that stands in the way of these worthy achievement and that we have to work together and work harder to find the right cure," she said.
She commended the African Union for choosing the theme; "Winning the fight against corruption: A sustainable path for Africa's transformation" for the year 2018 saying; 'rooting out the evil of corruption will make Africa a more equitable place and bring us one step closer to the overarching aim of the 2030 Agenda of leaving no-one behind and that of Agenda 2063 of creating the Africa we want'.
The meeting will issue an updated plan of action for the UN's Regional Coordination Mechanism to support the AU.