ONE action you can take for International Anti-Corruption Day

Ending corruption in the oil and mining industry starts in our own backyard.

Today is International Anti-Corruption Day. We have a very real way in which your voice can make a difference in the fight against corruption.

It’s no secret that corruption is a widespread problem in Africa. In Afrobarometer surveys of African citizens, 81 percent responded that they think at least some government officials are involved in corruption. An alarming 36 percent believe that most or all government officials are corrupt.

More difficult than identifying corruption is trying to quantify it. By its very nature, corruption defies easy measurement, since there is seldom credible documentation of what is inherently an informal, and typically secretive, activity.

But anecdotal evidence and rough estimates indicate that corruption is a very large problem in many African countries.

Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former Nigerian government minister that now works as the vice president of the World Bank’s Africa division, estimated that Nigeria has lost more than $400 billion to oil thieves since the country gained independence in 1960. For those scoring at home, that’s an average of $7.7 billion annually lost to corruption.

That annual loss is equal to a stack of $1 bills 26,800 miles high – more than enough, if you ate some of Popeye’s spinach and knocked the stack over, to circle the globe at the equator.

Or, more usefully, that’s enough money, in 2013 dollars, to:

- Vaccinate all of Nigeria’s 27 million children under age five, saving nearly 1 million lives over time, AND…
- Give all 168 million Nigerians a bed net to protect against malaria, AND…
- Provide all 3.4 million HIV+ Nigerians with life-saving anti-retroviral drugs, AND…
- Hire more than 400,000 additional primary school teachers, resulting in a 77 percent increase in Nigeria’s teacher workforce.

Calculating the exact amounts lost to corruption in Africa (and elsewhere) may be an imprecise science, but clearly corruption’s negative consequences are very real.

Curbing corruption is an important part of ONE’s effort to end extreme poverty in Africa. Every dollar, naira, rand or shilling not lost to corruption is one that can be spent on things like textbooks, life-saving medicines and fertilizer.

As is illustrated in the Nigerian example above, corruption in countries that are rich in natural resources is particularly problematic given the sizeable sums of money involved. Some of Africa’s most corrupt governments – in countries like Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria – are also blessed by oil and minerals. High rates of corruption in governments that handle billions of dollars in natural resource revenues each year is a recipe for bad outcomes.

That is why ONE is pressing governments to pass transparency laws that would require oil, gas, and mining companies to report the payments they make to governments. This first, commonsensical, step toward greater transparency will help enable citizens in Africa and beyond to hold governments accountable for the ways in which money from oil and minerals get used.

The US passed such a law in 2010, demonstrating true global leadership in the fight against corruption. Sadly, some oil companies intent on preserving the status quo of secrecy are shamelessly fighting to weaken the law, temporarily delaying its implementation.

ONE, with your help, is pushing back against this brazen attempt to keep African citizens from accessing information critical to curbing corruption. We are calling on the US government to not be bullied by Big Oil.

Add your voice to the fight. Sign our Big Oil petition to end corruption.