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Africa's youth enlisted to fight corruption

Fighting the endemic corruption that deters Africa's development is a major focus for some international organizations in 2018.

A boy in Harrar, Ethiopia
A boy in Harrar, Ethiopia (AN/Boris Heger)

WASHINGTON (AN) — Fighting the endemic corruption that deters Africa's development is a major focus for some international organizations in 2018 that want to improve governance and business with the support of young people.

The African Union's theme this year is "Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa's Transformation." It builds on an A.U. anti-corruption plank — the A.U. Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption — that took effect in 2006 and is ratified by 38 of A.U.'s 55 member nations. African leaders also declared July 11 as African Anti-Corruption Day every year.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the A.U. Commission and former prime minister of Chad, said the theme of tackling corruption dovetails with a need to invest more in youth. An A.U. statement puts Africa's losses from corruption and illicit financial flows at about US$50 billion a year.

“Central to the work ahead is the fight against corruption in all its forms. Corruption destroys the lives of ordinary people and undermines their trust in their leaders and public institutions," he said in a speech at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, home to the A.U.'s headquarters, on May 25. "Resources that are needed for development and the delivery of services — such as electricity, education, healthcare, sanitation and clean water — are diverted by a few, thus depriving the majority of the people from access to these critical services."

Passing the torch

During the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings at Washington in April, A.U.'s ambassador to the United States, Arikana Chihombori-Quao, met with delegates from more than 100 other organizations in 40 countries to discuss the youth efforts.

Chihombori-Quao, a medical doctor who has been a family practitioner in Tennessee for the past quarter-century, called on young people to advocate for greater transparency in government and multinational business to lessen routine bribery, Washington-based National Whistleblower Center Legal Defense and Education Fund reported on its Whistleblower Protection Blog.

“Young people need to understand [that their representatives] can’t take bribes from international organizations against their own nation,” said Godswill Agbagwa, founder and president of Center for Social Awareness, Advocacy, and Ethics.

His international nonprofit organization, based in the U.S. and Nigeria, says it encourages anti-corruption leadership skills and ethics training among African youth — especially since 41% of Africa's population is under 15 years old.

The National Whistleblower Center pushes stronger whistleblower protections as part of its international anti-corruption efforts. It says whistleblower protections and rewards under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — which penalizes corporate bribery of foreign officials and covers American and non-US companies — apply to African youth.

The African Development Bank Group, which says it has financed more than 5,500 projects totaling over US$143 billion since its founding in 1964, promoted greater transparency in development at a civil society forum at Abidjan, Ivory Coast in May.

"No one sector nor actor can resolve Africa’s development challenges alone in a context of fragility," the Bank Group said in a concept paper. "Coordinated actions between the stakeholders are important to ensure transparency and accountability at a country-level and maximize impact."