The argument goes something like this; corruption is the backbone of African business dealings and bribery one of corruptions offshoot is the quintessential tool of choice for African Governments and leaders. If you want to do business in Africa you must have two forms of capital investable capital and corruption capital. To succeed your corruption capital must be 2x your investable capital. You must bribe to see stakeholders; you must bride to get your licenses and papers approved. You must play ball or face being flagged persona non grata for whatever dealing you are involved in. And by the way, you have no legal recourse should you lose your corruption capital and invested capital
Take Nigeria for example with 144 million people, it is the most populous nation in Africa. Of this number, per UNDP 100.8 million of them live and survive below $ 1 a day and 132.5M people lives below $2 per day. On average, each family has 5 kids or more to feed with $1 or $2 unadjusted for inflation. Inflationary pressures in Nigeria are at 13% up 2% from prior year Per the Central Bank of Nigeria. The interaction of these pressures; rising food prices, inflated and unregulated housing prices, lack of jobs, security, maternal mortality makes the decision to accept bribe an easy choice. It makes this decision a necessary evil in the arsenal you need to survive and feed your family in Nigeria. It is literally impossible for a family of 7 surviving on $1 a day and faced with the choice of accepting $5 as bribe to look the other way bypassing procedures and or processes.
For some in Nigeria, Integrity and principle don’t have a strong foundation when the pressures of feeding ones family takes hold. The kids bear witness to their circumstance and are unable to impact these events, they are exposed to the teachings of corruption and the education of just surviving early in life. To add to this, Nigeria’s spending as a percentage of GDP on education is at 3% but in neighboring countries like Ghana, South Africa and Kenya it is 5.4%, 5.4% and 6.7% respectively. The UNDP ranks Nigeria as a low human development country at 158 out of 177.Despite its oil wealth, Nigeria remains a highly unequal society with a gini coefficient of 0.43.
African families in North America, Asia, Middle East, Europe and the Caribbean’s have the same conversation about what they would do if they were in charge and have an opportunity to bring about change. And while they do not spell it out in a manifesto, they are quick to stake out there position in mini living room congregations that become their campaign voting population. Everyone tries to make their case as strongly as they possibly can. The problem is that everyone talks about the eradication of corruption knowing that it is an impossible task. Too many people and too many livelihoods depend on corruption capital. We must acknowledge this fact and rethink the conversation within our living rooms in search for a solution.
Africans in the Diaspora want to have a positive impact on what is going on in their mother land. They all have great ideas on what it would take to make Africa great. They all know the problems with Africa and can recite and analyze the subtle issues and plight of the African continent and nations therein. Passions and emotions flare up whenever you find them congregated over food and drinks in celebration of a holiday or graduation or simply having a party to celebrate friends or a change in the prefix before their name. I often wonder how possible it would be to gather all the thoughts and solutions that are shared within these forums or informal panel discussions that occur daily at the kitchen tables and living rooms.
Let us change the model of the conversation and in so doing move away from just issues of corruption which is the standard excuse for the Diaspora not getting involved or losing interest in the current state of affairs in Africa. Instead, we must find a solution with corruption capital built in from the onset. read more