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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid