There is excitement among African citizens and anti-corruption activists as the African Union (AU) declared 2018 as the year of Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation. It comes at a time when several African countries have experienced changes in government on the basis of fighting corruption and the AU plans for its 31st heads of state summit in July, 2018 in Nouakchott, Mauritania.
The social and economic cost of corruption and illicit financial flows are massive and estimated to cost the continent up to US$50 billion each year according to a 2015 study by a UN panel led by Thabo Mbeki. But whilst there are efforts on the continent to ensure greater transparency in government, so far, little progress has been made in preventing the illegal movement of money away from the continent and the people who need it most. The continent still grapples with grand corruption at the highest levels.
In light of this, more than 150 Civil Society Organizations from 37 African Countries are calling on the African Union to seize the AU Heads of States Summit in July 2018 to take meaningful measures to address corruption. Leaders have the opportunity to make specific commitments to catalyse reforms that give credible anti-corruption bodies, government institutions and other law-enforcement agencies the means to effectively combat corruption.
Specific commitments on implementing reforms that tackle illicit financial flows, ensure public disclosure of beneficial ownership of companies operating on the continent, and open contracting in public procurement systems could transform the fight against corruption. We need a people-centred fight that deprives individuals of the proceeds of their corrupt activities, together with institutional reforms that harness technology to reduce opportunities for corruption.
We and our civil society partners across Africa encourage the AU to ensure that the July summit sets the bar high for these measures to become a Pan-African norm.