The African Dimension (Extension 3)

Earlier, I discussed some of the underlying bases of corruption in Africa. Yes, corruption affects 66-75% of global communities but Africa seems the most corrupt despite being the least able to sustain it.

Once corruption becomes entrenched, its negative effects multiply. It induces cynicism, because people begin to regard it as the norm. It undermines social values because people find it easier and more lucrative to engage in corruption than to seek legitimate employment. It erodes governmental legitimacy because it hampers the effective delivery of public goods and services. It limits economic growth because it reduces the amount of public resources, discourages private investment and saving and impedes the efficient use of government revenue and development assistance funds (see here for reference).

I have suggested that the justifications for this may include lack of resources and in some cases poor educational systems. Again, I believe these are simple justifications. I’ve discussed the cultural differences (see The African Dimension above), suggesting that the social environments in Africa lead to a more personal, if not personable way of interacting socially. Otite Onigu (2000) quoted in G. Lewal’s Corruption and Development in Africa: Challenges for Political and Economic Change suggests that

 “Corruption is the perversion of integrity or state of affairs through bribery, favour or moral depravity” … It takes place when at least two parties have interacted to change the structure or processes of society or the behaviour of functionaries in order to produce dishonest, unfaithful or defiled situations”. In other words – corruption is a systematic vice in an individual, society or a nation which reflects favouritism, nepotism, tribalism, sectionalism, undue enrichment, amassing of wealth, abuse of office, power, position and derivation of undue gains and benefits.

I favour this interpretation, especially as it reflects the tribalism and sectionalism that still prevail in much of Africa. A reading of Meredith’s 2011 The State of Africa supports this view. As a result of tribal organisation and affiliation, members of the same tribe tend to favour each other. This plays out as one member helping another, perhaps with a bribe or kickback or as skewed nepotism in hiring and firing in the workplace. Those who favour each other on a tribal, clan or family basis may well justify corrupt actions out of a distaste or outright hatred of peoples of other tribes, clans or families whom they exclude from their circles.

Group identity with reference to a tribal culture may hold more sway in Africa where in the developed world it has largely vanished. Group identity is held more strongly when the groups are smaller and one knows many members within the group. Thus if a clan consists of anything up to 150 individuals clan alliances are stronger because members are known to each other. Similarly, when many clans come together to make up a tribe, clan alliances are extended to members of that tribe, although the bonds may be weaker at tribal levels. In the developed world where group sizes are much larger, the ties that bind are also weaker (see Dunbar’s Number, but more of this later).

The truth about the Zimbabwean nation is that it was built around tribalism, so entrenched is the tradition and culture to the extent that it is now institutionalized tribalism (see here for reference).

During colonialism and Apartheid black people [in Zimbabwe] were forced into a so-called Bantu education and even at [the] workplace blacks earned less than their white counterparts even if they were doing same jobs. Nowadays Ndebele ethnic people regardless of qualification and merit must be deputies of ethnic Shona people. Even in sports administration [it] seems there is an unwritten rule that Ndebeles must be deputies. Is this tribalism not [also] imperialism? (see here for reference).

Tribalism may be seen as a common thread running through African social organisation. It may be so deeply ingrained in the psyche that it influences decision-making, political factionalism and social networking. It influences how one person sees or judges another person through his or her theory of mind. Corruption in Africa, as well as political affiliations and social intercourses may well be a redolent of a tribal organisation of society. Tribal affiliations are not only reflected in small encounters on a day-to-day basis – they are reflected in crooked mega-deals engineered by those in high places. As a result corruption has become endemic in much of the continent (see here for reference).

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About johnderonde

UK-based charity worker in Tanzania
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