Africa: Tackling Corruption Must Be Africa's Top Priority - Commonwealth Secretary-General

The Commonwealth Secretary-General has said that tackling corruption must be a priority of the highest order, as the vice has been depriving African citizens of vital resources.

The fight should aim to deliver Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Patricia Scotland QC made the remarks on Tuesday, May 03, 2022, during the opening of the 12th Regional Conference of Heads of Anti-corruption agencies in Commonwealth Africa being held in Kigali from May 3-6.

Heads of anti-corruption agencies from the Commonwealth's 19 African member states are gathered in Kigali for this major conference aimed to step up the regional anti-corruption fight.

It is held under the theme "Combating Corruption for Good Governance and Sustainable Development in Africa."

Scotland indicated that corruption has destructive economic social and political impact, and fighting it takes courage.

"Corruption is simply unacceptable... It is not inevitable, so we should take action to stop it. Not simply because SDG16 sets specific targets to reduce corruption, bribery and illicit financial flows, but because we cannot deliver any of the SDGs without tackling corruption," she said.

"Our people suffer as a result of the corruption. And therefore, we need to address it because corruption undermines the ability of our countries to deliver inclusive and sustainable economic growth and social progress," she observed.

The cost of corruption to Africa

Endeavouring to quantify the problem, Scotland said that globally, corruption leads to illicit financial flows, costing developing countries about $1.26 trillion per year.

Africa loses over $50 billion a year through illicit [financial] flows, equivalent to all annual official development assistance [provided to the continent].

The Africa Growth Initiative, she said, concludes that Sub-Saharan Africa received nearly $2 trillion in Foreign Direct Investment and official development assistance between 1980 and 2018, but lost more than $1 trillion to illicit financial outflows.

"When looking at the whole of Africa, that figure rises to $1.3 trillion. And let us be clear: $1.3 trillion could lift the 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 per day out of poverty," she said.

For the medical cost of corruption, she said that Transparency International calculates that corruption costs the health sector $500 billion every year, more than the amount needed for worldwide universal health coverage.

"Every $100 million lost to corruption, could fund full immunisation for four million children, or provide water connection for 250,000 households. And the damage goes beyond headlines statistics," she pointed out.

Money that is stolen through corruption, she noted, cannot be invested locally, [hence] robbing communities of vital and good investments.

Beti Kamya Turwomwe, Chairperson of the Association of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa, said that when people steal money from their countries, they go and hide it in other countries, or offshore accounts.

"And that is a matter of concern which we want to pay attention to, so that it makes corruption very risky and very unsafe because, wherever you choose to hide your wealth the big eye of all of us member countries will be seeing you and can always repatriate it back to the mother country," she said.

"So, we are telling the thieves and the corrupt, through this association, we want our money back. And with the collective effort of this association of the Commonwealth Africa, we shall get our money back wherever you hide it," she emphasised.

Prime Minister, Dr. Edouard Ngirente said that the cost of corruption has severe effects on the lives of the citizens.

"This cost is very high and continues to weaken the resilience of our communities," he said.

"Corruption creates economic distortions and hampers investments. Investors who deserve a fair and competitive business environment will avoid investing in countries where there is a high level of corruption," he observed.

Ngirente said that Commonwealth Africa member states can make a difference in this fight against corruption through strengthened cooperation and effective accountability mechanisms.


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