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Political corruption bane of Africa democracy

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Political corruption, which is borne out of illegal and secretive means of funding political parties, is one of the banes infecting the democratic process in Africa, the Nigeria Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has stated.

She wondered why no one is ready to discuss the problem of how political parties financed the democratic process and how election campaigns and political parties were themselves financed and the source of the resources.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who is also the Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy for Nigeria, was presenting a paper on “What Africa Should Do To Claim the 21th Century” at the Kufuor Foundation Lecture Series in Accra on Friday.

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Dubbed the Global Development Series, the lecture was the second since the establishment of the foundation which is premised on three foundation pillars, Leadership, Governance and Development. It has as its vision, serving as a vehicle for the continued development and consolidation of leadership and democratic governance in Africa.

Explaining further, Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who for four year was the Managing Director of the World Bank Group, said in most African countries it was gradually becoming clear the close relationship between politics and business, whereby businesses provided financial support to get their politicians elected.

The danger, she hinted is that the business get large favours which would aid them to recover some of their investments in the campaign but unfortunately, such favours “can be very distortionary for the economy”, including granting tariffs protection to such friends which was to the detriment of the majority of the population.

She noted that although the problem was not unique with Africa alone and gave examples such as Transparency International’s recent report which adjudged political parties as the most corrupt among key sectors in UK public life.

To address the issues she had raised, the Harvard University graduate, called for urgent review of how political parties were financed and inculcate in the laws a transparent way of doing this to avoid the repercussions and urged African to lead the way in this endeavour.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala said unlike her country Nigeria, Ghana had learnt from the  mistakes of other nations and had put in place measures, including the transparent manner of dealing with its recently  oil find, especially the rules and regulations governing the expenditure of the revenues.

She said Ghana, like Nigeria would soon face some of the temptation her country was confronted with and advised that policy makers and leaders needed to be more transparent in the negotiations of natural resources mining contracts, by allowing open and competitive bidding for mining concessions.

“We must stop these practices of bartering mining licenses for infrastructure projects because they are not transparent and just too difficult to quantify and to evaluate,” she cautioned and referring to the political corruption added that many so-called friends would come with offers which must be investigated carefully.

Concluding her lecture, she stated that “When I look across the continent today, I see many opportunities for wealth-creation, ranging from manufacturing to agriculture and from e-commerce to the creative arts.

And our young entrepreneurs are also working hard to tap these opportunities. In Lagos, we have young entrepreneurs who have established an aluminium manufacturing plant, with a total output now of about 100 million cans each month”.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala , cited the example of Pedigree, which allows consumers to verify the authenticity of products via SMS, and so helps to combat counterfeiting a technology which was invented by a Ghanaian in Accra.

She said in Dakar, there was the story of the agribusiness start-up which processes milk from Fulani pastoralists who live along the Senegal River .

“The Africa of the 21st century would certainly be a different place. It will have more dynamic economies – from Dakar to Nairobi, from Johannesburg to Lagos, and also right here in Accra! It will be better governed! And ultimately, it will be more prosperous,” she added.

Story by Donald Ato Dapatem