Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bribing Africa's Leaders to Stop Corruption

Sudanese-born telecom tycoon, Mo Ibrahim (founder of Celtel) is offering $5 million and a $200,000 annual stipend for life in hopes of enticing African leaders away from their national coffers. Mr Ibrahim said the prize, which has the backing of international heavyweights such as Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Mary Robinson, is necessary to encourage African leaders to consider a fourth alternative to those they currently face when nearing the end of their term, namely “relative poverty, term extension, or corruption”.

Of course he would never call it what it really is: a bribe. While heads of government on other continents are expected to deliver peace and prosperity with only their people's gratitude and a pension as compensation, in Africa's case this is considered a tall order. This prize reaffirms the view that African leaders (and by implication, the African societies that produce them) are irredeemably corrupt. It is a view widely held not just outside, but within the continent. Why else would we accept the argument that the Kenyan policemen are corrupt because their wages are so low? Why else would we pay our MPs a small fortune each month hoping that they then wouldn't need to steal from us? What is the difference between that and "protection money" paid to the Mafia?

Such thinking completely misses the point. Giving the police and our politicians more money will not stop corruption. If it could, then Kenya would be a graft-free paradise. Poverty is not a sufficient or even necessary condition for corruption. A lack of integrity is both necessary and sufficient. Integrity cannot be bought. You either cultivate it or you don't. For as long as we don't put a premium on integrity, wage increases and prizes such as Mo Ibrahim's will only serve to whet the appetites of those seeking to devour us.

1 comment:

3N said...

Even if the current leaders accept the bribe and step out, what about the next generation? Wouldn't they also wait to either be bribed or lead on as corrupt officials?

As gathara said Integrity cannot be bought. We will never eradicate corruption from our governments if we continue to justify and mistakenly rectify ‘causes’ of corruption.