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Monday, 16 April, 2001, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Bribery and corruption: How prevalent is it?
New corruption allegations have emerged in South Africa as investigations continue into a multi-billion dollar arms deal with European weapons manufacturers.

Over the last few weeks the scandal has engulfed some of South Africa's top politicians.

Opponents of the arms deal have accused the governing African National Congress of accepting bribes and have demanded an independent inquiry into allegations of corruption.

But the ANC has consistently denied any charges of wrongdoing, and has resisted attempts to bring in an independent judicial investigator to examine the deal.

Has corruption eaten so deep in the fabric of African countries that nothing can be done about it? Or is corruption in Africa widely exaggerated?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Corruption is considered a "virtue" worth emulating in most African countries

Madalfa Diallo, USA
Corruption is considered a "virtue" worth emulating in most African countries. It will take more than high-sounding rhetoric to rid Africa from this evil practice. It will take courage, sacrifice and vision.
Madalfa Diallo, USA

The question is: DO WE REALLY CARE FOR ONE ANOTHER? If the answer were positive, I believe the words bribery and corruption wouldn't even be in our dictionary, certainly then not a topic for talking point, let alone it prevailing to such an extent that it's become a cancer.
Justice Novisi y. Dzitrie, Ghana

It's just too sad. There seems to be no sense of patriotism in any African. It's all about how do I get mine. And previous regimes that looted and bribed their way through should all be punished irrespective of who you are today. To think that in Nigeria today, someone like IBB can do what he did and still resurface with talks of a civilian bid for the presidency shows you the extent of corruption in Nigeria and Africa. Those who voice support of such abominations should simply hang themselves in disgrace.
Jay, Nigeria/ U.S

The leaders plunder and rob the country because they can get away with it

George Mutua, Kenya
Most African countries lack a legal system that can effectively guard against corruption. Institutions in Africa are founded and operate under autocratic rule and principles, which allows those in authority to exercise absolute power. The leaders plunder and rob the country because they can get away with it. The masses have never been exposed to the joys of democracy and meritocracy, hence fail to realize and revolt against such leaders. Until Africa establishes a legal system founded on democracy that can truly guard against corruption, then corruption will continue to be the norm.
George Mutua, Kenya

While we are having this debate about corruption in Africa and African governments as a Nigerian I am more concerned about the foot dragging of the British Government concerning Nigeria's stolen money in English banks. Nigerians in the UK need to come together and hold regular demonstrations in London until The British Government do the right thing.
Yomi Oloko, Britain

Corruption is prevalent and will not go away until we as Africans change the way we think. I also believe that the Western institutions that have loaned money to African states have exacerbated the situation by supporting the corrupt leaders. In the same breath, it is our responsibility as Africans to see to it that our leaders are held accountable. This presents a highly contentious situation because in Africa those being led are 'traditionally ' supposed to bow to the whims of their leaders. Our leaders are using this, saying that we should stick with 'tradition ' yet on the other had they are embezzling millions.
Mangaliso Makama, Swaziland

Corruption wont go away unless you make the so called leaders of Africa go away

Corruption wont go away unless you make the so called leaders of Africa go away. Just imagine waiting for 20 years for a phone line for your home because you didn't pay the telephone official in Ethiopia.

In Zimbabwe if anyone is said to be doing very well in life definitely it's not honest but has some strong links somewhere with the chiefs. Education is no longer a guarantee to a decent life. The key is corruption.

Corruption is here to stay

Rahul Shah, Kenya
Corruption is here to stay. No matter how many articles or debates are carried out, nothing is going to change. It is becoming a way of life. Unless the top politicians (who have become millionaires overnight!) are kicked out, I'm afraid nothing is going to change.
Rahul Shah, Kenya

Corruption cannot be stopped, it can only be reduced. This is a problem all over the world. In the US, there are efforts to reduce the amount of money in politics. Japan has had its share of top-level corruption cases. Recently, the former German chancellor was on trial for corruption. The problem in Africa is that there are few cases of corrupt officials being brought to justice.
Hector Besong, Cameroon

It is far too easy to find blame in socio-economics and politics. In the end it is each individual who makes up the fabric we call Africa, it is each individual who has to make an obligation to honesty and integrity. I cry for the paradox that is Africa, the most beautiful continent on this earth.
Michael M, USA

It's about survival

Adelaide Shava, Zimbabwe
I'm from Africa, and we are told to live by our means in a country where the economy is deteriorating and living standards are appalling. If I can get an extra dollar to feed my starving family, guilt is not something to go by - it's about survival.
Adelaide Shava, Zimbabwe

Corruption is so rampant in Africa it's almost legal. From airports to government offices you have to "tip" someone to gets things done.
Nebro, Ethiopia

Many are writing as if there is an agreed definition of corruption. It is certainly not a specifically African problem. Much of the theft of resources that takes places in Africa does so with the blessings or indifference of the donor communities and other foreign powers and corporations. Corruption (however defined) is clearly a problem for everyone. But it cannot be properly addressed until we are quite sure what it is.
Graham Wood, Uganda

There is no simple solution but countries have to make a decent attempt at starting somewhere

Tejan Fadlu-Deen, United Arab Emirates
Corruption is the primary cause of the abject poverty that exists in sub-Saharan Africa today. The knock on effect is desperation of the masses leading to anarchy and war where the youth do not see any future in their lives and are easily coerced into joining counterproductive rebellions against their own people whilst the politicians stealing from them live in relative safety. Corruption is so rife it has reached a point where you cannot conduct normal business without having to pave the way with bribes and kickbacks for simple services. There is no simple solution but countries have to make a decent attempt at starting somewhere instead of the token efforts we have seen over the past decade or so with the results being an increase in poverty and loss of life.
Tejan Fadlu-Deen, United Arab Emirates

Corruption cannot be looked at only in a single context, but rather as a series of socio-economic factors which, together, make up what we lightly refer to as corruption. Remember, also that many counties learned this practice from their colonial masters who were very good teachers. The only drawback is that they are not as adept at concealing their misdeeds.
Sinclair Roberts, Zimbabwe/ USA

As a Cameroonian, I can speak with authority on this subject: corruption is endemic. It has reached a point where you feel embarrassed by either not bribing or not being asked to do so.
Bate Arrah, Cameroon, living in the Ivory Coast

There is no political will to fight corruption

Hilary Binta Pius, Uganda/ USA
The major problem here is that there is no political will to fight corruption. Most times there is overwhelming evidence that someone is corrupt and may be holding office, but what happens is that they are not prosecuted. If they are prosecuted, they are not punished but instead are retired with all full benefits even after stealing so much from public coffers!
Hilary Binta Pius, Uganda/ USA

After over thirty years of self-rule for most African countries, we appear to have developed a very novel and unique ethic in governance - excessive self interest. As long as we do not realise that this will take us nowhere but will only lead to decay at all levels and in all sectors of societies, corruption will triumph. What Africa needs for starters is to realise the benefits for everyone of being guided by an ethic of national interest or at least some semblance of it.
Cyprian Kambili, Malawian in UK

Corruption starts from the top with western countries bribing African leaders so they can be awarded business contracts. The practice spreads like a cancer with African leaders helping themselves from public funds, as they come to see the state as offering the capital they need to get into private business, given the under- developed nature of African economies with no meaningful industries to talk about. Because of this lack of development of most African countries, the state cannot collect enough revenues for its recurrent expenditures, like public service salaries. Due to poor salaries, the public workers imitate senior public officials in taking bribes. The general public reinforces this behaviour as they see the offering of bribes as the fastest form of making public officers attend to them.
Anthony Musonda, Zambian student in Germany

The two sides to the legacy of state corruption in Africa must be addressed in the quest for a lasting solution

Bonny Ibhawoh, Canada
It is not in dispute that corrupt leaders and public officials in Africa have been the main actors in the entrenchment and proliferation of state corruption. But it is also true that they have found ready associates and accomplices in profit driven Western multinational firms and an ambivalent international capitalist economic system - one in which Western creditor countries and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) are continually willing to grant dubious loans to corrupt and unpopular African regimes which are subsequently misappropriated. The two sides to the legacy of state corruption in Africa must be addressed in the quest for a lasting solution to the problem.
Bonny Ibhawoh, Canada

Corruption in Africa is just like corruption in developed countries many decades ago. The problem with Africa's corruption is that it has deteriorated to the lowest level such that the lowest level worker must be bribed in order to get any service in any government institution. With the high rate of unemployment, Africa could weed out corrupt employees in a month. Just fire a dozen managing directors and ministers plus low-level workers as an example and you will see results.
J. Ocen-Odoge, USA

Corruption is endemic in every country in the world, Africa's problem is worsened by poverty, How does the West expect Africans to believe that they are corrupt yet they are abetting the crime by allowing this money to be kept by banks in their countries?
Asbel, Kenya/ UK

Corruption in Africa is both a cause and a symptom of poverty on the continent as well as a reflection of the fact that many Africans have little or no sense of obligation to their artificially created countries. Without such a sense of selfless obligation, there is hardly any qualms regarding the pillaging of resources. In my country, Nigeria, for instance, Government resources are regarded as no man's and every man's property. As a result it is hard for embezzlement of government funds, to use an obvious example, to be seen as larceny.

But it is not a hopeless situation. We need to put in place constitutional and judicial safeguards that are replete with punitive provisions and are backed by enforcement. More importantly, we need some form of ethical revolution through which the virtues of hard work and honest reward and the dignity of labour would be entrenched in the continental psyche.
Moses Ebe Ochonu, Nigeria/USA

Each new regime in Africa demonises the previous regime and the corruption that was in it. It promises that it will be different. Unfortunately that has never been true so far. With each new regime appears a new sophisticated way of corruption tolerated and sometimes sponsored by men in high governmental positions. This results in people getting extravagantly rich within a few months (not to say overnight) without doing anything different.

There are of course those who start with a genuinely new idea and become rich very quickly. That should be praised and encouraged. But when you see a taxi driver become the owner of a multimillion dollars company overnight you smell something really strange. Because of the involvement of high officials nobody dares to raise questions. When is this going to change?
Dereje, Ethiopia

Corruption in Africa is not exaggerated, it has corroded the fundamental fabrics of the African society, but it can be controlled. A tough leader with conventionally accepted values could do something about it. That is exactly where we lack. Africa has run out of those.
William Gyude Moore, Liberia

How does one explain the preponderance of offshore banks - which accept money without questions being asked - that are invariably controlled by Western banking interests? Unless Western banking institutions stop providing a safe haven for Africa's looted resources, Western governments cannot complain about economic refugees, because we are attempting to move to the West to claim what is rightfully ours.
Roy Adupa, UK

See also:

08 Apr 01 | Africa
SA arms deal scandal widens
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