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Corruption and the Africa Union

As the latest African Union (AU) Summit draws to a close Spotlight East Africa takes a closer look at the organization’s track record on corruption.

Corruption is one of the key challenges facing the continent. This fact has long been acknowledged by the AU, which back in 2003 adopted the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption (AUCPCC) that binds all member states. Many African countries are also committed to the UN Convention against Corruption.

It is a problem that is not going away anytime soon. As last month’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report released by Transparency International (TI) highlighted Africa performs badly in global terms, with the region recording the lowest average score in 2019.

However, Africa also has its success stories. For example, in East Africa Rwanda has shown that where there is political will and a willingness to work alongside partners, a series of reforms from the institutional to the cultural can translate to significant improvements over time. There are also countries that have recently taken impressive strides forward when it comes to fighting corruption, including Angola which last year saw the first conviction for graft of a senior official. The country’s former transport minister has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for charges of corruption and embezzlement of state funds.

Yet the findings of an Afrobarometer survey last year revealed that a majority of citizens in the 35 countries included in the study thought that corruption is getting worse and that their government is doing a poor job of fighting it, suggesting that there is still some way to go.

The theme for this year’s AU Summit is ‘Silencing The Guns’. Discussions have focused on the aim of achieving peace in order to enable development across Africa. At the same time there were closed-door sessions on a number of other issues, including corruption.

Since the adoption of the AUCPCC the AU has taken several steps to build on its fight against corruption, from establishing the AU Advisory Board on Corruption in 2009 to the AU’s 2018 campaign “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.”

The 2018 campaign saw leaders across the continent pledge to step up the fight against corruption, and once again acknowledge the challenge corruption presents and the need for action. The resulting Nouakchott declaration included several commitments on this score.

Nevertheless implementation of the AUCPCC remains slow and uneven. The scale of the challenge was highlighted when half way through 2018 a member of the AU’s Advisory Board on Corruption, Daniel Batidam, resigned from the body in protest at irregularities.

While the AU advances its cooperation and integration on several fronts, notably ahead of the implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area(CFTA) in July 2020, there is a serious case to be made for a continent-wide anti-corruption court. Such a court could provide corruption-fighting expertise and serve as a court of final recourse where national institutions fall short. Its very existence alone would no doubt serve as a powerful motivator for leaders across the continent to make sure they walk the talk when it comes to graft.

After all, as the AU continues its push to silence the guns in 2020 it would do well to remember that all too often conflict and corruption go hand in hand.


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