Corruption and poverty in Africa: Conceptual issues, causal linkages and strategic implications – Dejo Olowu

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The menace of corruption in Africa has many causes. In the years after colonial regimes exited the continent, a tremendous amount of money and new resources have become available in the form of foreign donor assistance, new business contracts and increased trade (of both legal and illegal products). African governments have not developed administrative or judicial institutions to manage these resources transparently, which in turn creates large opportunities for elites to enrich themselves at the expense of their peoples and countries. Many of the biggest contracts for construction, transportation, supply of fuel and extraction of natural resources have been awarded to a handful of powerful African families through non-competitive processes. The African police and court systems are also part of the problem because they are often corrupt themselves or at least have no power to punish powerful figures who have stolen from the State…

It becomes therefore imperative for us to tackle the menace of corruption and its attendant role in poverty generation by integrating into current approaches with the existing frameworks of human rights standards that are replete in various UN and AU treaties as well as virtually all national constitutions. Until ordinary Africans are empowered and equipped to utilise the human rights structures in tackling the rooted causes and consequences of corruption, the crushing levels of poverty evident across the continent will not end, after all, corruption in itself is a human rights violation and indeed leads to the violation of several specific human rights. Taken together, where there is systemic denial of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to access information or the right to education, it becomes very problematic to hold political office holders and bureaucrats to account, a situation that facilitates opportunity to continue corrupt practices unhindered. Conversely, the promotion and protection of human rights and initiatives against corruption are mutually reinforcing.  A rights-based approach to anti-corruption established on the principles of transparency, accountability, equality, non-discrimination and participation is a prerequisite for strengthening anti-corruption initiatives. Safeguarding specific human rights, especially the rights to information, freedom of expression and assembly, an independent judiciary, and participation in public affairs, are all imperative for sustainable fight against corruption and poverty….

Colloquium on Poverty and Human Rights in Africa, Cape Town, South Africa,

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