News / Africa

Ethiopia's Meles Blames African Corruption on Foreign Investors

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)
x
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)
Peter Heinlein
What is the poison that corrupts many African leaders, no matter how honorable their intentions when they take office?  That was the question put to a panel of that included heads of state and government at the World Economic Forum on Africa on Thursday.  The question received a surprisingly candid answer.

It was promoted as a conversation on Africa's leadership.  Among those on stage were the leaders of Africa's two most populous nations - Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

The conversation was routine until the floor was opened to questions from youth leaders.  A young South African woman stood up to ask the question that many had pondered, but few dared to pose.

"Good day.  My name is Gobano Madnamaraso," she said. "When our leaders are young - most of our African leaders - they are visionaries.  They have wonderful visions for our continent.  They are admirable.  The speak good, they do good.  But something happens to them once they are seated in those chairs of power.  My question is:  We want to see our continent change, but we are afraid of this power that corrupts even some of the best, most admirable leaders on our continent, and what is this poison that happens in these chairs of power and how can we prevent it? "

But perhaps just as frank as the question was the reply.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi pointed to greedy foreign corporations as a main driver of corruption.

"What is the poison that leaders face when you go to national palaces, and transforms people with vision sometimes into ordinary thieves?  Let's start with the total amount of loot in Africa, and what our role as leaders in that loot[ing] is," said Meles. "The vast majority of the loot[ing] is done by properly organized companies through all sorts of accounting gimmicks."

Meles said African leaders are forced to be facilitators for foreign companies who demand favors in return for their investment that might means jobs for their people.

"It's a difficult thing to manage because our bargaining cards are very limited," he said. "We need these companies to create jobs, in order for them to come to Africa.  The image is very negative, so the risk is artificially spiked.  And if the risk is artificially spiked, the return has to be commensurate with the risk.  And so it's difficult to attract them without extraordinary returns."

The Ethiopian leader said that sometimes leaders give in to temptation.

"Sometimes we facilitate without being paid," he said. "At other times we say, 'Okay, if your family's farm is being looted, why not join in?'  I think that is the most insidious form of corruption.  It affects everybody, including those whose hands are not in the till."

Another question that was less confrontational, but no less pointed, came from young Sudanese woman who wanted an explanation for the lack of female representation among African leaders.

"Hello, I am Jihada Bonefice from the Khartoum hub in Sudan," she said. "It's quite wonderful to see all you gentlemen up there.  But my question is:  How do you envision the role of African women in shaping the future?  And is there any way you are trying very hard to maybe to get African women where they belong - right up there [on stage]?"


Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba answered, saying “Women are Africa's chance for success tomorrow.”  But panelists agreed that solutions to the continent's leadership gender imbalance will be difficult.

Increasing the ranks of female leaders will be among topics discussed at Friday's closing forum meetings, along with China's rising prominence in Africa.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid