Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Graft in Africa
The New York Times carries a front page article this morning on graft (corruption to you and I) in Africa, and the challenges ahead of the G8 Summit.
There is ample fodder for pessimists and optimists alike. On the positive side, a growing number of African nations are edging away from crime and autocracy toward democracy and openness. Ghana, which marked its first peaceful democratic transfer of power in 2000, is often cited as a regional model of reform. Tanzania's president, Benjamin Mkapa, claims that an anticorruption campaign has led to a four-fold increase in government revenue in the decade since the nation's first multiparty elections. Zambia is trying its former president, Frederick Chiluba, for stealing $488,000 in state funds - even though he handpicked the successor whose government has charged him.

Yet a May study by the World Bank found that between 1996 and 2004, the quality of governance deteriorated in as many African countries as it improved.

Kenya is a painful illustration: a government ushered in two years ago on an anticorruption platform saw its widely respected anticorruption czar quit in frustration in February, apparently because his work was thwarted. The United States and Germany quickly withdrew nearly $10 million in aid.

Whether the new wave of African aid avoids the pitfalls of the past depends not just on its recipients, development specialists say, but also on the donors, who have often pushed poorly devised projects, refused to coordinate their efforts or demands with one another and failed to monitor the impact of their largesse.

Foreign aid must be tied to teaching poor nations how to build accountability into their governments, development specialists contend. In some countries, it is not even clear whether the executive branch or the parliament controls the budget, said Steven Radelet, a senior fellow for the Washington-based Center for Global Development. He warned, however, that such improvements typically require generations to take root.

Worth a read.