LETTERS: Winning graft war can spur economic growth

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

There has been a flurry of visits and handshakes in the past few days, coupled with amazing statements and the unending praises on the improved state of affairs and the potential we have. What is not clear is where the recent international interest is coming from?

I recall the speech by Kenyan law academic Prof PLO Lumumba during the Rwanda National Security Symposium on May 14, 2018, where he said ‘Africa is on dinner table eaten by superpowers’. He explained that Africa is not in any dialogue on the table but rather as a meal.

I reflect on this because most African countries have been labeled as low income and middle income yet they have bigger GDPs than that of the developed world.We have blamed so many things that have led to our poor development status, among them past injustices and corruption.

Corruption has for a very long time been regarded as a problem in African development. Honestly speaking, if you look at underdevelopment with a tooth comb, it is not as much as a result of corruption as we have believed it to be.

This could be a script that has been written for us by others to read, believe and keep on preaching it as the gospel truth.


The reality is that we have stinking governance that leads to chaotic decision making and lack of direction.

Lack of healthy governance extends to lack of direction for the state and any person will come in and tell you if you change this or that then we will be out of debt. I am in full support to fight and stem corruption to the earliest generation, but the question is once we get rid of ‘it’ what are we replacing ‘it’ with? Of course, I am not downplaying the fact that corruption and lack of competence of state can result to poor economic performance.

I have an answer to filling the gap. And my solution is to look at the Asian Tigers model. They are not the most democratic states we have in the world, but they have instituted “growth enhancing governance”. This approach lays more emphasis on transformative rather than restraining institutions.

I do consider this to be necessary bait for African growth and prosperity. In my view if we only fight corruption and leave it at that, we will only be propagating the conventional governance agendas which were out to explain why we have market failures and some of the factors that have been documented have been due to weak property rights, bad interventions, corruption and high transaction costs.

Then the question is, why have so many countries failed to do that which is in their best interest? And the expert advice that we are given almost always is that there is need to fight corruption.

But it is well known that no country has ever implemented the current good governance agenda before embarking on development. This is evident in the recently growth in East Asia, who have embraced transformative governance that is pro-poor and market focused.

The contemporary good governance agenda is based largely on governance capabilities that are required to create the conditions for markets to be efficient. While these are important and desirable conditions, we argue that they are second order conditions, in the sense that without other state capacities that directly promote sustainable growth, market conditions for efficiency are on their own insufficient and ultimately unsustainable, which leads to ‘market failure’.

In this case, I believe if Africa is to develop, it needs to look beyond the vision of the state.

I am inclined to use the example of Ethiopia’s development strategy which showed positive signs of encouraging results of export growth and diversification aided by industrial policies.

The growth enhancing governance should be highly guided by pro poor approaches to growth and human development.

Amazingly, we have one of the highest labor force in Africa, but what we are doing with it specially to enhance agricultural productivity as a center piece to poverty reduction is not yet clear.

Scholar, Azizur Rahman adds that employment generation is one of most important characteristics of pro-poor growth. This is one of the most important lessons from the East Asia, and as a result, sustained rapid growth and structural changes are important in poverty reduction in Africa.

The fight to end corruption is not the only means to economic prosperity, but one of the conditions we need in place to spur the market efficiency, service delivery and reduction of red tape.