The African Dimension

Looking at deceit and deception from a moral perspective we know what is right and wrong, even from an early age (at least most of us do). Faced with a choice we look at the cost of an action or decision with reference to our social standing and more often than not we choose to take a risk. If that risk crosses a moral divide we then fabricate a story to justify our actions – we lie. Some transgressions are petty, such as in the case of the chicken thief and some are major, as with the Ministry officials (see Deceit and Deception above). Like lies, our transgressions grow as we continue to not get caught. Somewhere along this line greed comes knocking and we step over the threshold. We experience the thrill of acquisition or of ‘getting away with it’ and we’re away, wherever our greed takes us. We lose our selves within the greed, eventually failing to ‘see’ how we have transgressed.

Again, I refer here to the moral perspective. Our basic sense of morality is the same all over the world. I don’t believe there are people on this planet who do not appreciate the premise that we ‘do unto others as we would have them do to us’. In all human societies, even the more primitive, we develop some basic moral value system. Some of the values are adopted and distorted by religious ideologies depending on the society but this does not alter the basic values. From this perspective we can see that everyone should know when they are doing something morally wrong.

The Corruption Perceptions Index map below (CPI 2010) shows that during 2010, across nearly 75% of our planet we chose to transgress morally through bribery and corruption and, like a web of lies, we can’t seem to shake them off.

cpi2010
The map shown here has not changed significantly since 2002. But why were nearly 2 in 3 of that 75% of corrupt countries in Africa? An analysis of the problem by the Consultancy Africa Intelligence (see here for reference) reveals that

Transparency International’s (TI) 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), released in October 2010, identified Africa as the most corrupt region in the world

and that

Forty-four of the 47 African nations surveyed scored less than five on the index, indicating serious levels of corruption. The severity of Africa’s corruption problem is further evidenced by the least corrupt African nation, Botswana, only achieving a score of 5.8.

In terms of the number of principalities, Africa has got it beat. However, Africa is not alone. It shares the same number of corrupt principalities as the Middle East. Moreover, the middle or near east and the far south-east as well as the central Asian mainland (Russia), not forgetting South America, all share the problem with Africa. Perhaps we should not look at the problem from the point of view of the number of principalities. Maybe we should measure the comparative extent of corruption by population distribution. In this way we could say that the Asian continent beats the African. But then, corruption is corruption, comparing its extent by location is pointless.

Looking at the African problem, there may be underlying social, political and cultural justifications for the extent of corruption, including higher levels of poverty as well as deficiencies in education. However, as I stated earlier, some of these are only the justifications for corrupt practices. We need to look more closely at cultural differences to understand what goes on informally, socially. In his paper DEALING WITH CULTURAL DIFFERENCES: Contrasting the African and European Worldviews, O. B. Jenkins (2007) observes that

A society or cultural group is an extremely complex collection of historical identity, religious concepts, relational patterns, and shared experiences of all kinds. The present character of an ethnic group or a political entity is the result of centuries of shared experiences, and entails a coherent thought-system [ToM?] that helps make sense of those experiences and maintain the values developed over the history of that group.

and that

The African view of the world is relational. Events and relationships are seen as the main components of reality. People and social relationships and obligations are the overwhelming considerations.

Maybe I am being too harsh on the African people. What we see in the west as bribery and corruption, Africans see as reinforcement of a relationship, a friendly reminder, an incentive to help a process, anything but corruption. More soon.

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About johnderonde

UK-based charity worker in Tanzania
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