It didn't take long, 3 months after South Africa enforced a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19 and announcing billions in relief funds specifically to tackle the effects of the pandemic, there is already news of hundreds of millions of government deals being awarded to politically connected covidpreneurs. South Africa media has been abuzz with these stories this week including one about the President's speaker's husband being involved in a PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) tender worth millions.
It's important to note at this stage that from a legal perspective, all the perceived corruption is just allegations and no court has ruled on any of the cases. This is the part that worries most people across the continent, i.e. allegedly corrupt people are hardly ever tried in courts, or justice takes too long to investigate and charge them.
It's also important to highlight that kwarapshin (as it is sometimes called in Nigeria) is not unique to Africa. This is something I explore in more detail with our first special guest on my podcast coming on 2 August 2020. Corruption exists everywhere, however, across Africa it is more pronounced because the majority of citizens lack the basic services to live their lives, mostly as a result of funds meant to deliver public services being "looted."
The follow-up question then is: how do we stop kwarapshin?
Can it even be stopped?
Can technology play a role in speeding up investigations and helping prosecutors?
In my humble opinion, it goes deeper than that. We possibly have to explore what incentives are already in place to encourage corruption. Is the political and business environment setup in such a way that engaging in corrupt activities is easily rewarded?
What's also interesting to note is that not all politicians start out wanting to be corrupt. Take the case of the honarable President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (featured in our cover image for today's Daily Brief newsletter).
At the young age of 40 years old, Museveni became the President of Uganda. He was hailed by many, rightfully so, as a liberator. Everyone, including the New York Times in 1986, waxed lyrical about how he cared for citizens.
"Unlike many heads of state in Africa, the new leader voiced contempt for African governments for what he has said is their corruption and failure to meet the needs of their citizens." - Rebel Sworn in as Uganda President, The New York Times, 30 January 1986
Unfortunately, Museveni, who amended the country's laws to ensure he remains President to this day (yes, I know there have been elections in Uganda, but...) is everything he despised in African leaders in 1986. From corruption to not taking care of citizens needs and including attacking and targeting opposition leaders.
Many methods have been tried to reduce corruption across Africa including platforms and apps for anonymously reporting these crimes against citizens. Yet, we are still here, many years after liberation movements have taken power, they are still "backward as Museveni was quoted as saying during his inauguration in 1986.
"He [Museveni] called African countries 'very backward'' and said that, with all their resources and potential, they lagged far behind the developed world in such areas as health care, life expectancy and industry. With all of Uganda's 'professors, with our excellencies, with our honorable ministers,' he said, the country cannot 'make a needle.'- Rebel Sworn in as Uganda President, The New York Times, 30 January 1986
How do we get out of this cycle?
When it comes to corruption, whether it be in the public or private sectors, South Africans generally lament that those accused of corrupt activities hardly ever face the consequences of their actions. This is due to several reasons some being that obtaining evidence of corrupt dealings and proving the corruption link often, legally takes time. However, with the help of whistleblowers and technology, this can change. [Podcast]
COVID-19 has presented South Africa with the gravest crisis in the history of its democracy, according to the country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa. Some South Africans would argue the corruption that seems to never have stopped when the country gained independence (continuing with the corruption from apartheid days) is the grave crisis that the country continues to face. [Article]
Internet shutdowns that we have witnessed across Africa since 2007 have impeded the right to development and posed threats to democratic development. The first case of Internet shutdown in sub-Saharan Africa was reported in Guinea in 2007. In the intervening years, light has been shone on the devastating impact of shutdowns across Africa. [Article]
An integrated electronic payment service known as GIMACPAY has been introduced in all six countries of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, CEMAC. The countries include Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Chad, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. [Article]
Google will allow most of its employees to work from home until June 2021 as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This was revealed by Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc., in a memo to employees. [Article]
Quote of the day
Many methods have been tried to reduce corruption across Africa including platforms and apps for anonymously reporting these crimes against citizens. Yet, we are still here. (Tweet this)
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