11 July is a significant day for many anti-corruption activists, across the African continent. It is the day designated by the African union to recognize the successes the continent and its citizens have made in the fight against corruption. It is also the day, when Africa reflects on the existing challenges that are impacting on its undertakings on matters corruption.
A key development in the five years since the establishment of the African Anti-Corruption Day is the development of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC). The AUCPCC came into force in 2006 after its adoption in 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique. 44 members countries of the African Union have since ratified the convention and adopted most of its legal, policy and institutional provisions on the fight against corruption. Its requirements to member states include the need for State Parties to foster regional, continental and international cooperation in preventing corruption.
Despite the above, many African countries still experience challenges on matters graft. Corruption takes place at high government levels where public officials abuse their positions to benefit at the expense of citizens. These levels of grand corruption, are also evident within political spheres, where powerful individuals distort laws and policies to benefit from public funds. Some citizens have since joined in the fray, and indulge in petty corruption by demanding and giving of bribes as they access public services.
The overstated impact of corruption in the continent includes; depletion of national and continental wealth, which could have been used for development. This has propagated poverty in many countries, as it leaves nations and their most vulnerable citizens, lacking in basic infrastructure to advance their socio-economic potentials. Corruption has also impacted the promotion of the rule of law and democracy in Africa, especially, in instances where laws and policies are developed for the benefit of the few. This in turn impacts on the motivation of citizens who are keen on observing the law for personal and professional development.
The theme for the 2021 African Anti-Corruption Day is, ‘“Regional Economic Communities: Critical Actors in the Implementation of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.” The theme is in agreement with the need to involve all stakeholders at the regional, national community level within the African continent. It specifically focuses on the top-down role of Regional Economic Communities in enabling candid discussions on the progress, challenges and successes of the African Continent in the fight against corruption. It also focuses on the place of the regional economic communities in promoting accountability, transparency and integrity in the continent’s multinational undertakings.
The same virtues can and should be thought through at the national level. Kenya for example, has established varied legal, policy and institutional frameworks for the fight against corruption. Key amongst them is the Multi-Agency Taskforce on corruption, which brings together stakeholders, to address the causes, impact and accountability issues on matters corruption in Kenya. Moving forward, and as we mark the African anti-corruption day, it is important for all institutions to establish more citizen-centered approaches to anti-graft. This will include involving citizens in strategy development, information sharing and public participation in the fight against corruption.