Corruption in Africa is like an insidious culinary contaminant, tarnishing the feast of progress and development. It stifles economic growth, undermines trust in governments, and scares off potential investors and aid organisations like diners fleeing a cholera outbreak.
So, let's set the table with Transparency International's 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (Transparency.org). This index paints a grim picture, ranking countries like Uganda, Nigeria, Somalia, Congo, and Malawi disturbingly low on the corruption scale, with 180 as the peak of insidious behaviour. These nations, seeking international investment, teeter on the precipice of economic ruin. Corruption costs the continent billions of dollars annually, and it appears that governments are complicit due to a lack of substantial, meaningful and practical action.
However, the emergence of advanced technology provides a glimmer of hope, akin to an arbitrator with a secret spell that can transform an impending decision. In this article, we'll explore how more competent African countries can tackle the contamination of corruption by harnessing the power of technology. Imagine it as a culinary journey that aims to restore investor trust, infuse transparency into government expenditure, and rekindle faith between investors, donors, and the continent.
Before we dive into the deep end of the pool, let's uncover some global attention-grabbing corruption cases and explore how technology could have acted as a preventive spice, saving billions of dollars for Africa's development.
Malawi: The "Cashgate" Scandal – Corruption Size Estimated $32m
Picture a corrupt kitchen in Malawi, where government funds are embezzled, and fraudulent payments simmer. The discovery of the "Cashgate" scandal happened when an astute accounts assistant, Victor Sithole, was caught with bundles of cash. Investigations revealed a sprawling network of public officials and accomplices siphoning off government funds. This scandal cost Malawi around $32 million and shook its fragile economy.
Here's What Happened:
1. Discovery: The scandal was exposed when an accounts assistant in the Ministry of Tourism, Victor Sithole, was found with large amounts of cash in his car. Further investigations revealed a network of public officials and businesspeople involved in embezzling government funds.
2. How it worked: Government payments were made for services and goods that were either never provided or were inflated in price. The excess money was then siphoned off to individuals' bank accounts.
3. Scale: The scandal was massive, with estimates suggesting that around $32 million had been stolen over a six-month period. This was a significant blow to a country with minimal resources and many pressing development needs.
4. Legal actions: The Malawian government took several (muted) measures in response to the scandal, including arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of many individuals involved. Several high-ranking officials were implicated and simply faced legal consequences.
5. Impact on trust and confidence: Many international donors suspended $150m in aid to Malawi. It should be noted that half of the population in the country lives below the poverty line.
However, it should be noted that the above is one of many more in recent years, including:
Maizegate Scandal (2017): The Maizegate scandal revolved around the procurement of maize, a staple food in Malawi. It was alleged that government officials were involved in dubious transactions, including overpricing maize purchases from Zambia. This case raised concerns about food security and the mismanagement of public resources.
Malawi Police Food Scandal (2020): In this case, funds allocated for police officers' food and other operational expenses were misappropriated. It was reported that senior police officers were involved in the mismanagement of these funds, affecting the well-being and morale of the police force.
COVID-19 Procurement Scandals (2020): Malawi, like many other countries, faced corruption allegations related to the procurement of essential medical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were reports of inflated prices, substandard equipment, and other irregularities in the procurement process.
Zuneth Sattar: Corruption Size Estimated $150m
In a collaborative investigation, the National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom and Malawi's Anti-Corruption Bureau has identified a connection between a British entrepreneur of Malawian origin, Zuneth Sattar, and a procurement scandal involving public contracts.
Mr Sattar, originally from Malawi but holding British citizenship, was apprehended by the NCA in October 2021. He faces allegations of corruption related to three public contracts valued at $150 million. These contracts, spanning from 2019 to 2021, pertained to the procurement of armoured personnel carriers, food rations, and water cannons. Sattar vehemently denies any involvement in illicit activities, and while formal charges have not been laid against him as of yet, it is anticipated that they will be filed in the near future (whenever that may be).
The investigation has also implicated several high-ranking figures, including the then Vice President Mr Chilima, the president's chief of staff at the time, Prince Kapondamgaga, George Kainja, the head of the police service, and senior officials within the police, military, and procurement organisations, in allegedly corrupt associations with Mr Sattar.
A great article to read is: Malawi, the land of broken promises | Chatham House – International Affairs Think Tank
Similar corruption cases include the Nigeria arms deal scandal. In Nigeria's culinary theatre, the arms deal scandal unfolded like a poorly wrapped samosa. Embezzlement, inflated contracts, and kickbacks tainted the procurement process, diverting funds meant for arms and ammunition into the wrong pockets. The scale of this scandal reached an astounding $15 billion.
These cases are a bitter reminder of the deep-rooted corruption plagues African governments. I witnessed the unappetising levels that existed on the back of human suffering when I was in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis, where the international concern for humanitarian issues was met with astonishing levels of greed emitting at the highest levels by the Government led by then President Ernest Bai Korma, officially it is stated that an astounding 30% of Ebola funds are yet to be accounted for and the operative word here is *officially”.
However, there's a glimmer of hope, a silver lining that brings the taste of change. Voters and people's movements are the chefs who can stir the pot of reform. In Malaysia, the 2018 general election ousted a corrupt government and ushered in leaders committed to anti-corruption reforms. In Lebanon, 2019's anti-corruption protests led to the government's resignation, showcasing the collective strength of citizens demanding transparency. The same fight for freedom was seen in countries like Sri Lanka, where the majority unleashed the need for national progress by ousting a Government they felt was unfit for purpose.
But technology, like a culinary marvel, offers a transformative recipe for change. Companies like Knovos can act as culinary alchemists, standardising data, providing clarity to key stakeholders, and building transparency through every sector of the economy. This technology creates a savoury evidence chain for tenders, submissions, and documentation while flagging areas of concern and deep dive ability into all forms of data needed. It's a technological feast that can redefine a Government’s reputation, slashing corruption dramatically and making the promises of an administration a reality.
In all the cases covered so far, it’s the tendency for intentional human manipulation that has led to a country’s downfall; however, reforms like ingredients do not start from empty promises or ill-thought-through rushed recipes. No, my friends, it starts with genuine action.
The fight against corruption in Africa is a culinary journey where voters, people's movements, and technology blend into a tantalising recipe for change, garnished with accountability and integrity, promising a brighter future for the continent.
Personal note to the Government of Malawi
Please accept the assurances of my highest consideration.
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