Looting With Reckless Abandon: Are African Leaders Cursed?

Looting With Reckless Abandon Are African Leaders Cursed

A number of people have tried to suggest that there is something fundamentally wrong with the DNA of the black man, well, as unfounded and racist as it may sound, the truth is that happenings in the African continent have given reasons to believe such theories. The ways and manner in which leaders elected or foisted on African nations have continued to loot the common patrimony of the people they are supposed to be representing and growing clearly speaks to the fact that all is not well with the continent.

The biggest tragedy of the African continent today is that most of its leaders, especially those who have little or nothing to offer the people, have continued to find themselves in leadership positions which to them is merely an avenue to enrich themselves and press the hopeless people whose welfare they should be seeking to improve.

This explains why, despite the penchant for the power of leaders in Africa, the practicality of poverty is quite frightening as most people on the continent basically live on less than a dollar income per day. Perhaps more painful is the fact that 34 out of a total of 49 African countries account for a greater proportion of the Least Developed Countries, LDCs, in the world. This provides solid explanations as to why poverty indicators such as extreme hunger, malnourishment, homelessness, diseases, high crime rate, slums, lack of opportunities, low productivity, and illiteracy abound in larger quantities in the continent.

Is Africa cursed? How can a continent be this poor despite the fact that the continent is blessed with gold, diamonds, oil, coltan, bauxite, uranium, iron ore, and other valuable resources? Why are its inhabitants long numbered among the world’s poorest despite these enormous natural and human resources? It is true that a few sub-Saharan African nations are doing relatively well at the moment, but the truth remains that most Africans are currently mired in poverty. The answer is simple and relatively straightforward – mindless looting and endemic corruption!

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The recently published ratings from Transparency International about its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) clearly show that most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have continued to abysmally fail to progress against corruption. From the report on the ratings, over 90 percent of countries in the region scored below 50, and only four nations scored better than 50 out of 100. The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption on a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).  The Sub-Saharan Africa average remains the lowest in the world, dropping a point this year to 32.

African leaders have continued to swim deeply inside the oceans of corruption and sometimes, they do not even care about the optics or perception. They mindlessly loot the common patrimony and foolishly stash them away in the West or perhaps even use them in developing those climes.

Sometime last year, South Africa, for instance, was rocked by allegations that former President Jacob Zuma and a plethora of former ministers and CEOs of state-owned companies systematically planned and executed state capture to aid the wealthy Gupta family and line their pockets. On June 22, South Africa’s Chief Justice Raymond Zondo released the final installment of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and found that the ruling African National Congress party, under Zuma, ‘permitted, supported and enabled corruption and state capture’. Not even the current President Cyril Ramaphosa was spared by the report, because it was he who served as vice president under Zuma and ofcourse hesitated ‘to act with more urgency’ to resist the emergence and establishment of state capture.

It is rather painful that following the Gupta scandal, South Africa is still in a deep mess as it battles to recover millions of dollars it lost through dodgy contracts linked to the nationwide campaign to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

In Zimbabwe, the story is not in any way different. A man whose name was given as Kudakwashe Tagwirei who is a businessman allied to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, stands accused of amassing $90m through a shady central bank deal. As messy and startling as the story is, big efforts are being made to ensure that it is swept under the carpet.

In Mozambique, ex-President Armando Guebuza’s son, Ndambi, former Finance Minister Manuel Chang, and several other senior governing party members are currently struggling to cleanse their public image having been accused of participating in the disappearance of loans – taken out to finance maritime surveillance, fishing, and shipyard projects – which is worth a whopping $2.2bn.

In Namibia, it is not different either. Former Minister for Fisheries, Bernhardt Esau and former Justice Minister Sacky Shanghala is currently standing accused of taking bribes worth millions of dollars from an Icelandic fishing company.

In Angola, it is the same story as Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s former President José Eduardo dos Santos, who is currently being accused of making billions of dollars through illicit activities.

In Nigeria, it is looting galore as virtually every body that has had a stint in public office is corrupt. Not even the current President who ran and won office on the wave of anti-corrutpion has managed to stay above board.

The damage high-level and systemic looting and corruption are currently inflicting on already struggling African economies cannot be ignored or written off as normal or negligible. The illicit activities of elected officials, bureaucrats, and industry leaders are leaving states unable to deliver the most basic services to their citizens.

Just last year, acting UN Resident Coordinator Rudolf Schwenk said Malawi is unable to provide its citizens with “effective healthcare, quality education, accessible justice and an accountable and responsive democracy” because of high levels of corruption.

South Africa, meanwhile, is experiencing rolling blackouts, largely because corruption and gross mismanagement have debilitated state utility Eskom. To make matters worse, the country is experiencing this lack of reliable energy amid an unemployment crisis – today, a record 7.9 million South Africans are believed to be jobless.

In addition to the localised corruption perpetrated through state-owned entities, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that Africa loses about $88.6bn, or 3.7 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), annually in illicit financial flows. This mammoth loss should not surprise anyone. After all, many countries topping Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, such as Nigeria, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Chad, Burundi, Somalia, the Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan are all in Africa.

It is high time Africans began to understand that high levels of corruption leave governments weak, without resources or public support, and unable to prevent conflict at a time when people across the continent are struggling to deal with the impacts of the pandemic and increasing costs of living. High levels of violence and instability – which plague many countries in the region, from military coups to extremism, terror, and crime.

To begin moves to save the continent, the African Union must as a matter of urgency establish credible continent-wide standards and independent surveillance mechanisms to advance the anti-corruption agenda, and implement them, vigorously, as a means to promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation, and good governance.

Eradicating corruption is not only essential to establishing firm adherence to the rule of law and political stability, but it is also critical to promoting economic growth and reducing poverty in countries such as Malawi, Nigeria, and South Africa. It is time for the AU to assert its independence and demonstrate a strong, renewed, and active commitment to mitigate the socioeconomic consequences of bad leadership in Africa.

Moving on, Africans must also come to terms with the fact that their leaders are dangerously corrupt because they do not hold their leaders accountable. Well, maybe it is because they have become accustomed to bad leadership that they have become very numb about corruption, nepotism, tribalism, greed, and other cancers to their economic development. This must stop if they are desirous of liberating themselves.

It is high time Africans became more proactive than they have ever been. In corrupt countries, one will always hear about offshore accounts that leaders send to their children overseas and family members. To fix this mess, Africans would have to crack down on any family members overseas. Make it clear that all higher officials can only save their monies in-country. Monitor their assets and fire those who do not want to cooperate using any means available to them.

The most prominent reason why bad leaders exist in Africa is that politics is a lucrative profession in the continent. Members of parliament across the continent drive expensive $40K to $ 50K brand-new cars, that the government is paying for. Gas money and other repair services are all paid for. Literally, being a politician is the quickest way to get rich in Africa. So, many people do everything possible to get positions in the government. This must change!

In conclusion, it is long overdue to make leadership a very unattractive profession in Africa. It is time for Africans to make it so demanding that only a few want to join the profession. Only those who want to serve and make a difference will join the profession. Their motive should be only to serve the people and not to enrich themselves by embezzling public funds. Only then the passionate ones can join this noble profession to make their county great. Its surely going to be a long walk, but with determination and willingness to do the right things, Africans stand a chance of rescuing themselves from criminal hyenas who loot their treasury eery year!

Africa Digital News, New York