Earlier this week, African leaders meeting in Addis Ababa launched the African Union theme for 2018.
In bold language, this year’s theme speaks of “Winning the fight against corruption.”
This focus is good news for the African Union, and for everyone concerned about corruption in Africa.
First, the theme signals that African political leadership believes that the fight against corruption can actually be won. Furthermore, that they are collectively committed to winning it.
This provides some hope for a number of African citizens who thought that corruption has taken root, and there is little that can be done about it.
A 2015 survey by Transparency International and AfroBarometer showed that about 90 per cent of people that encountered corruption in Africa will not even bother to report it. The leading reasons for not reporting corruption are that people are afraid of the consequences, or that they think reporting would not make any difference anyway.
For these citizens, the renewed collective commitment by African Union leaders to fight corruption sets a new tone, but also invites us all to hold them accountable.
The drive to win the fight against corruption in Africa does well to pursue further implementation of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption (AUCPCC).
This treaty embodies the overarching anti-corruption commitments of the African Union.
Adopted 15 years ago, the treaty uses language that is consistent with the theme for this year. Its leading objective is to promote and strengthen the development of mechanisms “to prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption and related offences in the public and private sectors.”
At the time of its adoption in July 2003, African countries were quite enthusiastic about the anti-corruption convention and quickly signed it. Within a year of its adoption, 60 per cent of the AU countries had already signed it.
Currently, 52 out of the 55 AU states have signed it, leaving only Morocco, (which has only recently re-joined the AU), Cape Verde and the Central African Republic.
The enthusiasm with which the convention was signed indicates sufficient interest in the treaty across the continent.
However, despite this interest, only 38 countries have ratified the convention, accepting its terms as legally binding.
Currently, only citizens in these 38 countries can follow-up with their leaders to gauge how far they have implemented the anti-corruption measures of this AU convention. The renewed anti-corruption focus in 2018 is a great opportunity for the AU to engage with the remaining 17 countries to ratify the convention and commit to curbing corruption across the continent.
For this, there is no better time than the present.
Given the theme of the year, it would be a remarkable achievement if every AU country became party to the AU convention against corruption. It would also show the international community a collective commitment to combating corruption.
To quote President Paul Kagame of Rwanda in his acceptance speech as incoming chairperson of the African Union last Sunday, “There is no country on our continent that does not want to be part of a more assertive and visible Africa.”
Paul Banoba is Africa Regional Advisor at Transparency International. E-mail: [email protected].