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Africa Loses 148 Billion Dollars Per Year to Corruption

The African Union estimates that each year, African economies lose 148 billion dollars, or about a quarter of the continent’s total yearly revenues, to corruption. The World Bank Institute reports that more than one trillion US dollars are paid out yearly in bribes.

Anti-corruption agencies say the problem has the most affect on the poor. Corruption is seen as lowering the quality of public services, while at the same time forcing the poor to pay more for them. It also limits development, economic growth and poverty reduction.

Casey Kelso is the Africa regional director for Transparency International. He told English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard about the most common forms of the problem, namely “grand corruption,” of the type practiced by former dictator of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Mobutu Sese Seko, who sent large assets and great amounts money abroad to banks in Switzerland and elsewhere. Kelso says petty corruption includes police blockades stopping pedestrians or cars and demanding small bribes. He says midway between those two is corruption from the outside, in which transnational corporations provide “sweeteners,” or payments, to facilitate a deal with a government. “Midway corruption” also includes signature payments or miscellaneous agency fees to gain political influence to get an edge over the competition in construction projects.

Other, more indirect forms of bribery include payments to the president’s family or other third parties, such as the president’s relatives. Kelso says all of this goes to the president’s interests. Kelso says, “All that takes a toll and keeps a country from developing properly.”

He says all countries worldwide need to do more to fight corruption but says examples of African countries effective in fighting the problem include South Africa and Botswana.

Kelso says the most effective ways to fight corruption come from “political statements from the very highest levels,” such as South African President Thabo Mbeki’s open statement that corruption will not be tolerated. Kelso says the fight against terrorism has made money laundering more difficult, and puts banks on notice to be responsible for money coming to them that may be “ill-gotten gains.”