Africa Eyes A New Path To Clean Governance
Africa’s leaders ended a summit Jan. 29 with a new statistic on their thoughts: By 2063, the continent will see a tripling of the number of working-age people, to nearly 2 billion. The increase will far surpass the increase in all of Asia, India, and China. To create jobs for Africa’s coming population bulge, the leaders decided to focus their efforts this year on the one big obstacle to economic growth: corruption.
Each year Africa loses about a quarter of its gross domestic product to corruption, either in petty bribes or wholesale looting of natural resources. This injustice, says Vera Songwe, head of the Economic Commission for Africa, “is more powerful than any other injustice we as Africans could face.” The best evidence of the problem is the fact that an estimated 200,000 Africans are currently attempting to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
To tackle the issue, the 55-nation African Union named Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, the AU’s first anti-corruption crusader. Mr. Buhari told the summit he will primarily enlist young people in a grass-roots campaign that demands transparency and accountability in government.
“To win the fight against corruption,” he said, “we must have a change of mind-set.” Reforms in governance alone, such as better watchdog agencies or independent judges, are not enough.
Buhari was selected because he seems to be one of Africa’s more sincere anti-corruption leaders. Elected in 2015, he has begun to bring some integrity into Nigeria’s institutions. He has far to go. Other leaders say a bottom-up approach is needed.