is devastating economies across the continent. The African Union
needs to take swift action.
June 21, Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera fired the
country’s chief of police, suspended several senior government
officials and also took the extraordinary step of stripping his
deputy, Saulos Chilima, of all powers after they were accused of
receiving kickbacks from UK-based businessman Zuneth Sattar in
exchange for government contracts worth more than $150m.
Chilima is the highest-ranking official in Malawi to be removed from
power over alleged corruption to date, few were shocked by the
accusations. After all, it was only in January that Chakwera had to
dissolve the country’s cabinet after three prominent ministers
– Lands Minister Kezzie Msukwa, Labour Minister Ken Kandodo and
Energy Minister Newton Kambala – faced corruption charges.
a corruption pandemic is raging in Malawi – and on the rest of
from Malawi to South Africa and Zimbabwe, from Angola to Mozambique
and Namibia, in countries across Africa high-ranking civil servants
and their relatives, in cahoots with industry and business leaders,
seem to have long been shamelessly stealing from the long-suffering
Africa, for instance, has recently been 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 instalment 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”. He also criticised current President Cyril
Ramaphosa, who served as vice president under Zuma, for hesitating
“to act with more urgency” to resist the emergence and
establishment of state capture.
the Gupta scandal, South Africa is battling to recover millions of
dollars it lost through dodgy contracts linked to the nationwide
campaign to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Zimbabwe, Kudakwashe Tagwirei, a businessman allied to President
Emmerson Mnangagwa, stands accused of amassing $90m through a shady
central bank deal.
Mozambique, ex-President Armando Guebuza’s son, Ndambi, former
Finance Minister Manuel Chang, and several other senior governing
party members stand accused of participating in the disappearance of
loans – taken out to finance maritime surveillance, fishing,
and shipyard projects – worth $2.2bn.
Namibia, former Fisheries Minister Bernhardt Esau and former Justice
Minister Sacky Shanghala stand accused of taking bribes worth
millions of dollars from an Icelandic fishing company.
Angola, Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s former
President José Eduardo dos Santos, is being accused of making
billions of dollars through illicit activities.
damage high-level and systemic corruption inflicts 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
wonder then that Africa’s youth are extremely worried about the
deplorable and depreciating state of affairs on the continent.
According to the Africa Youth Survey 2022 (PDF) published on June 14,
Africa’s youths believe that the creation of “new,
well-paying jobs” and “reducing government corruption”
should be the continent’s two leading priorities. The survey
interviewed young adults, many of whom are students, from 16 African
countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Angola, Kenya,
Gabon and Malawi.
people are clearly aware that corruption is perhaps Africa’s
number one problem. But are the institutions tasked with moving the
continent forward taking this devastating ailment as seriously as
they say that they do. The Economic Community of West African States
(ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the
African Union (AU) have each established protocols on corruption.
AU appears to be particularly proud of its anti-corruption efforts.
It brags that its fight against corruption “has contributed
significantly to the ongoing transformation of economies across the
continent and reinforces the determination towards achieving
inclusive and sustainable development as envisaged in Africa’s
download the African Union Convention on Preventing And Combating
Corruption Click here:
reality, however, these institutions’ well-advertised efforts
to fight corruption have hardly delivered any tangible gains. As the
above examples well demonstrate, corruption is still as rife as ever
on the continent.
only thing that changed in recent years is the fact that, due to a
public awakening about the harms of corruption, most African
politicians are now feeling the need to announce their determination
to fight corruption during their electoral campaigns.
election promises, however, seldom transfer into action.
President Muhammadu Buhari, for example, ran for office on an
anti-corruption ticket in 2015, but Nigerians believe corruption has,
in fact, mushroomed under his watch.
Ramaphosa staked his presidential campaign in 2019 on a pledge to set
South Africa on a path of renewal, transparency and accountability,
but South Africans believe corruption has actually worsened under his
Buhari and Ramaphosa, Mnangagwa’s anti-corruption campaign in
Zimbabwe has yielded meager returns and he stands accused of
“presiding over a dysfunctional government, a corrupt
while Africa’s leaders are undoubtedly talking the talk, they
seem unable to walk the walk.
after a pandemic that intensified existing economic struggles, and
amid a major conflict in Europe threatening Africa’s food
security, among many other challenges, the AU cannot continue its
fight against corruption with empty platitudes and box-ticking
body that is tasked with leading the continent towards better
democratic governance and sustainable prosperity should accept before
it is too late that there is a corruption pandemic under way in
Africa, and the business-as-usual approach to battling it is proving
mostly ineffective. Consequently, it must change tack and begin to
systemically hold leaders accountable for their failure to stem
AU must 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
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
it does not take swift action to end corruption, economies across the
continent may soon fall victim to this undeclared but devastatingly