Corruption has shackled African economies with mediocre economic growth, miniature development and poor essential service delivery. According to 2019 findings, the World Bank projected that Africa will be home to an increasing amount of the world’s poor, approaching 90% by 2030. A central reason for this phenomenon is the fact that the continent is characterized by governments with little fiscal space to invest in poverty reduction programs, leading to sluggish economic growth for the most vulnerable.

With the full impact of the coronavirus yet to be established, the World Bank further projects that an additional 88 to 115 million people globally will fall back into poverty in 2020. This will not only fuel the vicious cycle of poverty, but also further stamp the gap between the rich and those surviving below 1.9 dollars a day.

But even as the scathing effects of Covid-19 keep eating away at Africa’s poor health systems, corrupt habits have slowed down the efficiency of the preventative measures institutionalized to fight the virus. In Nigeria for instance, lack of transparent distribution of palliatives to the needy and poor led to serial looting of palliative storage centers across the country. The ripple effect was vibrant calls for accountability and transparency from political figures. This begs the question: why do we always tackle corruption through its consequences?

Corruption is simply a symptom demonstrating that governing guidelines and institutions are headed in the wrong direction. Africa is unable to tackle corruption because the correct application of rules, and sanctions against those who do not comply to these rules, does not consistently occur.

However, the corruption problem can become even more complex when the set rules are seen to be the outcome of corrupt processes, and are seen to benefit a particular group. In Kenya for example, various legislative leaders holding flamboyant positions are accused of taking part and enabling corruption. Hence, Africa needs to focus its anti-corruption fight on long-term, high-return institution-building activities, coupled with the justice infrastructure and political will to hold those who transgress accountable.

Nonetheless, there is a link between corruption and culture. Fighting corruption in third world countries with the same methodologies applied in the West will keep attracting failure. Our anticorruption efforts should be redirected towards proper and fair remuneration of employees in all sectors, kicking out bureaucratic red tape in service provision, and reacquiring all irregularly acquired properties and money back into the state coffers.

Fostering a culture of equity and equal treatment of all before the law and in budgetary allocations will minimize the need to engage in corruption. The change of mindset for people from the grassroot level will create a breeding ground for graft-free habits.

This is especially important because of the technological disruption leading to a convergence of aspirations. As more people connect on social media, they are in touch with how everyone else lives in terms of opportunities. This leads to demand for better and similar opportunities.

If there’s no path to meet these aspirations, there’s fear that they could turn into anger, resentment, and possibly even extremism. We’re already seeing worrying trends – 2 billion people live in countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence. To meet these rising aspirations, African economies should redirect resources into emerging markets and create incentive structures to reward innovation in order to foster resilience.