Over the past two days, members of the private sector, government and civil society have gathered in Nairobi to discuss the role of the private sector in fighting corruption and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. The scourge of corruption has long been one of the main obstacles to realizing the incredible potential of the people and resources in Sub-Saharan Africa. While there certainly is still progress to be made, some of the continent’s key markets finally appear to be stepping up their anti-corruption efforts.
Tanzania. Inspiring both a hashtag (#WhatWouldMagufuliDo) and a new verb (“to magufulify”), new president John Magufuli has instituted dramatic measures to address corruption and excessive government expenditure in Tanzania. These actions have included a ban on foreign travel for nearly all government officials; cancelling the annual Independence Day celebrations and reallocating the money towards hospitals and fighting a cholera outbreak; a surprise inspection on the main state hospital that resulted in firing the hospital chief and dissolving its governing board; and the suspension of the Tanzania Revenue Authority Commissioner and other senior officials pending an investigation into unpaid taxes at the Dar es Salaam port. These measures have garnered widespread praise from citizens of Tanzania and across the continent.
Kenya. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his administration have been under intense pressure to address the rampant corruption in the country especially after an audit revealed that 98.8% of the government’s 2013-2014 budget could not properly be accounted for. Late last month, Kenyatta declared that corruption has become a national security threat and unveiled a range of reforms in the areas of procurement, customs and revenue, and anti-money laundering. In addition, he has fired the five cabinet secretaries who had been suspended earlier in the year on corruption charges. However, some critics wonder if these actions are only political posturing ahead of the upcoming 2017 elections.
Nigeria. Combatting corruption was one of the pillars of the campaign of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Since assuming office in May of this year, Buhari has overhauled the senior management at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and ordered a complete audit of it and the country’s other revenue generating agencies including the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Nigerian Customs Service. In addition, he has initiated investigations against a number of prominent figures from the previous administration including former Petroleum Minister Diezani Allison-Madueke and former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki. He also has appointed a new acting chief for the country’s anti-corruption agency. Notably, Buhari has enlisted the support of the United States, the United Kingdom and other members of the international community.
These efforts are long overdue but only time will tell if they are sincere and sustained.