The bribery syndrome

BY JACOB OKETCH

This is a book you will want to read if you are deeply disturbed by the cancer of corruption and how it has ravaged the African continent. It is a detailed account of how the continent has been and continues to be exploited by global business leaders and rapacious leaders who have abandoned the quest to improve the lot of millions of Africans living on less than a dollar a day.

Much focus on matters corruption has too often put the lens on public servants who plunder state resources. In fact, political leaders have borne the brunt of anti corruption crusaders. What is often not said is that the business community is one of the biggest enablers of corruption. Indeed, it is not too long ago when one of the key players of the private sector in Kenya openly admitted that graft is rife in the sector and that much more needs to be done to curb it.

This book is a grand exposition of the role played by multinational corporations in the rampant corruption besetting the continent. Joe Khamisi avers that the motive is purely greed. You will read about specific cases of bribery involving these corporations and senior government officials in the countries in which they operate. In most cases, culpability starts from the very top – the Presidency. Mr Khamisi, in a well-researched work, examines the activities of over a dozen companies that bribe their way into the riches of the continent at the expense of the development of various countries.

The multinational corporations use millions of dollars to bribe African leaders so as to win huge contracts worth billions of dollars. This money moves through a complex web of money laundering operations before ending up in offshore accounts somewhere in Cayman Islands or some such place. It is shocking to realize that corrupt Kenyans are keeping trillions of shillings out of the country, money that can do wonders if repatriated. Some of the bribes take other various forms; a lavish holiday abroad for government officials or college sponsorship for their children or gifts like cars and the like.

It appears that Kenya is a major channel of illicit funds. There are banks such as the BCCI and the Delphis bank that went under with billions of shillings of depositor’s money. It is this kind of banks that are heavily involved in money laundering activities. We get to learn from the book that much as the multinational corporations are deeply involved in bribery, their home governments have put in place strong legislations that attempt to stem the practice; the Foreign Corruption Practices Act (FCPA) in the United States and the Bribery Act in the UK, among others, hand out fairly stiff punishments to corporations that are found culpable.

What is saddening is that in most cases, public officials who get involved in bribery activities in African countries go scot-free. Even when there are specific laws to deal with the problem, the level of impunity has ensured that nothing much is done about bribery cases. Even when African governments benefit from the fines from the said foreign legal jurisdictions, that money does not benefit the common mwananchi. Instead, it ends up in the pockets of the very officials who are supposed to face the full force of the law for their infractions.

It is very disappointing that the leaders who the citizens invested hopes on to lift them out of poverty are the ones who have looted public resources the most. Take for example, the late Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe. He inherited a rich country but ran it down to ruins. The book gives various accounts of presidents milking all the resources from valuable minerals and oil. In fact, in some countries, the bank accounts where proceeds from oil accrue, are accessible only to the President and a small circle around him. It means he can do as he wishes with that money. This is regrettable because public resources ought to follow a certain channel of appropriation.

The multinational corporations (MNC) are so influential in Africa to an extent that in collusion with foreign governments, they determine the leadership in certain countries. In some instances, they bankroll assassination plans to ensure that they install somebody who is favorable to their unsavory trade practices. France alone, for instance, has been responsible for over a dozen high profile political assassinations on the continent.

In oil and mineral producing countries, MNCs have a monopoly where they pay hefty bribes to government officials and get all the juicy contracts. There are cases where military officials maim and kill those who live and work in the mines. Other officials even steal oil that is on transit for export. Officials from corporations from China have been accused of mistreating African workers in several countries where they operate. One was actually recently deported from Kenya, but only after insulting the President.

Another issue that is brought to light in this book is the dumping of toxic wastes by western governments and corporations on African soil. It is quite disheartening to learn that even after raping Africa’s resources, the MNCs in collusion with their home governments still have the audacity to dump their waste on the continent. Some of the Western governments are the greatest emitters of carbon, which is the greatest polluter of the environment. Instead of taking steps to mitigate this problem, they are still busy further polluting the African continent by dumping waste. This is an unacceptable state of affairs.

This book, written by a man who at some point was a politician, exposes the despicable behavior of the political class in Africa. The MNCs have managed to manipulate African leaders by bribing them to exploit the continent’s natural resources unhindered. It is a very important book for those who are interested in the genesis of corruption in the African continent. Africa cannot be cured from the cancer of corruption without interrogating the key enablers of the vice from the West. It is a task that the author has carried out splendidly.  

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