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United against corruption
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 20 - 06 - 2019

“Corruption is a lesion gnawing at the economics of states,” President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said in the opening session of the first African Anti-Corruption Forum (AACF), held last week for two days in Sharm El-Sheikh.
Forty-eight African countries participated in the AACF which was attended by 200 senior African officials and representatives from nine international organisations. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Kuwait also took part in the forum as guests.
“Organising the forum in Egypt comes from our belief in the importance of strengthening cooperation and exchanging experiences with African countries in the field of combating corruption,” Al-Sisi said.
Tackling corruption has become a high priority both nationally, and on the agenda of the African Union (AU), Al-Sisi, said success will require coordination among countries on all levels.
Egypt is the 2019 chair of the AU.
The president highlighted the importance of raising awareness of corruption as “one of the major obstacles hindering progress and sustainable development”.
Corruption costs Africa $148 billion each year — equivalent to 25 per cent of the continent's average GDP, according to a 2018 UN report.
“Weak governance enables corruption,” Idrissa Diop, director of the Compliance Control Department of the African Export-Import Bank, said. African countries need to build more robust governance mechanisms and strengthen accountability and oversight.
But it is not only governments that need to strengthen their systems, said Sue Aline, a professor of international law and civil society representative attending the AACF. So too must multi-national companies and NGOs. “Their role is to cooperate with the government in fighting corruption through launching awareness campaigns.”
“In order to fight corruption we need to be aware of what corruption is. Unfortunately, many white-collar crimes are vague. And people also need to know there is no reason to fear calling out corrupt actions,” she said.
Sentences also need to be strengthened. “For a corrupt businessman,” she says, “financial penalties if caught may well not be a sufficient deterrent.”
Aline believes Egypt has made great strides in tackling the problem. In the 2018 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index Egypt inched up to be the 105 out of the 180 countries surveyed. A year earlier it was languishing at 117th.
Sherif Seifeddin, chairman of Egypt's Administrative Control Authority (ACA), believes that “corruption cannot be eliminated without political will” and represents a huge obstacle to economic growth.
There is no lack of legislation against corruption, pointed out Ollita Ondongo, president of the Association of African Anti-Corruption Authorities, “but it is seldom implemented”. That must change if Africa is to overcome poverty and the exploitation of its young people.
According to Seifeddin, the AACF's main goal is to “provide a platform for African countries to meet on a regular basis to exchange information and experiences as well as agree recommendations and mechanisms to combat corruption”.
The first conference resulted in 10 recommendations, including the preparation of an integrated strategic plan to combat corruption in all fields. A joint committee of concerned agencies will prepare and follow up on the national strategies of African countries in this regard. An African indicator for measuring corruption will also be developed, reflecting the continental context while taking into account differences between individual states.
The forum also recommended creating a secure electronic mechanism for the instant exchange of information on corruption, money laundering and funding terrorism and establishing a legal framework to recover funds lost to corruption.

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