Junior Business Seminars (JBS) VI and VII:
The JBS programme has been designed for final-year students of universities and polytechnics, as way of filling the existing lacunae regarding knowledge among the younger generation of the realities of today’s business and economic environment. Participants were encouraged to identify opportunities open to private through a combination of lectures, simulation exercises and study tours.
JBS seminars in 1995 sought already to incorporate some of the recommendations emanating from an earlier review and evaluation meeting (see below). The two editions of the seminar held was based on the proposition that one of Africa’s major problems in promoting sustainable development is the availability of a critical mass of skilled and resourceful graduates from higher institutions who are fully aware of the challenges, opportunities and possibilities offered by private initiative.
JBS enjoys financial and administrative support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation of Germany.
In 1994, a decision had been taken to assess and evaluate the concept of an experience gained with the Junior Business Seminars. The inaugural seminar had been held in November 1991 and in the space of four years six seminars had been organized. The evaluation was designed to assess the programme comprehensively with a view to enabling ALF to improve on modalities, its relevance and utility.
A five-day evaluation meeting took place in June 1995 in Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria. A select group of participants in previous seminars were asked individually and collectively to assess their experience and to discuss the need and case for a continuation of the programme. During the second part, they had the opportunity to discuss with representatives of UNDP, the British Council, the Fair Trade Network among other members of the international/donor community with possible start-up capital funds as well as access to certain markets and information.
The participants overwhelmingly endorsed the maintenance of the programme and highlighted from their individual perspectives the seminar’s relevance and impact. In fact, some of the participants had even started their own businesses. However, some participants felt that the follow-up process on ALF’s part had been weak and suggested a more comprehensive and effective follow-up and monitoring.
Based on the recommendations of this meeting, ALF has now designed a form called the Individual Action Plan, which is administered to all participants outlining their plans, hopes and possible challenges for the next three years. This was meant to enable the Forum monitor progress or lack of it on the part of participants.
Participants also suggested assistance in accessing start-up capital from possible donor agencies as well as other sources.
In addition, based on the evaluation and suggestions by the participants, it was decided that an edition of the seminar be devoted each year to previous participants and that a meeting be arranged with other members of the international community to focus on possible assistance where necessary. Overall depending on availability of funds the Forum committed itself to holding four editions of the programme in a year and to consider the possibility of organizing a similar programme for East Africa.
Conflict Management and Prevention Network/Corps of Mediators
A one-week seminar was held for students of universities and polytechnics in Nigeria at the United States Information Service (USIS) premises in July 1995. The meeting was held under the auspices of the Conflict Management and Prevention Network of which the ALF is a principal partner.
The seminar was based on the premise that conflicts are a part of the realities of human existence and could indeed be productive, if effectively and timely managed. Thus, a need was perceived to address the issue of conflicts among students who live in an environment characterized by socio-cultural divergences which are prone to conflicts.
Participation was extended beyond the universities to include also polytechnics in Nigeria. The success of this year’s edition as well as the previous editions has made the consideration of extending this to other parts of West Africa attractive.
Although the Forum has planned to request its Corps of Mediators to act in the Kembe-Kalabari Dispute as it did with some form of success in the Jos North Local Government Chairmanship Tussle, the political development in Nigeria made it largely inadvisable to do so.
Corruption, Democracy & Human Rights In Southern Africa
Pretoria, South Africa - 31 July – 2 August 1995
The third and Southern African edition of the Africa Leadership Forum/Transparency International seminar on Corruption, Democracy and Human Rights, took place at the CSIR Conference Centre, Pretoria, South Africa from 31st July – 2nd August 1995. This edition of the seminar, like the earlier editions was also sponsored by the European Commission. The seminar was attended by forty-one participants and observers cutting across different sections of Southern African life. Among other participants at the seminar were H. E. Dr. Pascoal Mocumbi, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mozambique, Rt. Hon. Mr. D. M. Lisulo, former Primer Minister and former Attorney-General of Zambia and Mrs. Frene Ginwala, Honourable Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa.
Welcoming participants to the Seminar on behalf of the ALF Chairman, General Olusegun Obasanjo, former Head of state of Nigeria who is being presently detained by the military authorities in his country Nigeria, Dr. Beyers Naude of the Ecumenical Advice Bureau noted that the world is not at the era of global connections and age of global citizenship. As such, the enthronement of universally and age of global principles that guarantees basic human needs and rights and prevents human suffering was the collective responsibility of all global citizens. In her Keynote Address, Mrs. Frene Ginwala observed the need to strongly promote and foster a culture of resisting unwholesome governmental practices of corruption, human rights abuse, tyranny and repression.
The Seminar agreed corruption should be given the attention of an emergency situation on the continent. In addition it was also pointed out that corruption is essentially a multi-dimensional, all-pervasive addiction leaving no sector of economic, political and social activity untouched. It would be instructive and rewarding for the analysis of the phenomenon to take into cognizance the multiple manifestation and consequences of corruption on the development process and democracy as well as the defence, promotion and protection of human rights in Africa. To enrich the understanding of corruption it may be useful to undertake a broad survey of types and forms of corruption across a broad spectrum of African political and public life.
The point was also made that corruption is neither an African malaise nor is it a disease, that is, colour or race or culture sensitive. In a nutshell, it is a global phenomenon. The important point to note is that its effects in Africa have proven to be more deleterious, more damaging and completely obstructive of the development process than elsewhere.
It was argued that while democracy may have its glaring and not so glaring short comings it still remains the best form of government known to humankind. It was observed that in operational terms democracy may be expensive, in the short or medium run, considering the limited resources available for most African countries and the competing claims for them. However, it was argued that in the long run it is cheaper than any other form of government. Even if it were to be expensive African countries must find ways of footing the cost of democracy.
The seminar noted that drug trafficking, money laundering and abuse of influential positions were some of the international aspects of corruption.
Dwelling on the effects of corruption on development, it was observed that corrupt practices have contributed to the implementation of badly designed projects which were not economically or commercially viable. Cost escalations have resulted in pricing policies which have kept the services beyond the reach of people who were expected to be the beneficiaries. In many cases, projects have had to be abandoned and those which were completed became part of the “cemetery of white elephant” or in the words of one of the participants the “infamous Cathedrals in the desert” which have become common place in most parts of Africa. All these factors have contributed to perpetuate a vicious circle of underdevelopment while at the same time mortgaging the future of coming generations.
The development process of most African countries have in the past and still continue to be undermined by corrupt practices to such an extent that the very existence and future viability of some states are at risk.
The seminar also pointed our that corrupt practices have negatively affected the entrepreneurial skills of the African to the extent that concerns are for projects of short term nature, and long term development investments are rarely given serious and due consideration.
In addition to the wastage of scarce investible resources, the social fabric has become strained with unemployment, rising costs of living, juvenile delinquency and the disruption of family life adding to the myriad of socio-political and economic tensions. This has culminated in a loss of confidence in the political system, pessimism and cynicism about the willingness of the political leaders to eliminate corrupt practices and an endemic instability which has driven away potential investors.
Reviewing the causes and widespread nature of the problems of corruption and human rights abuse in Africa, the seminar noted that the overbearing nature and the overreaching powers and character of the post colonial state in Africa, as well as lack of the required will on the part of leaders are part of the of the causes of the pervasiveness of corruption. In addition to these is the serious decline in ethical standards in African public service institutions. The point was however made that corrupt practices are not an exclusive preserve of the public service, as the private sector suffers from a similar malaise. The seminar noted that part of the reason for the great decline in ethical standards of public institutions has to do with the appointment of office holders with little or no regard for merit.
It was realized that to give teeth to any action and to secure the commitment of political leaders, the problem of corruption should be addressed from an economic angle. The classification of the phenomenon as an economic crime would make the issue a national priority and force governments to tackle the problem at its root cause and in its multifarious facets. This classification would also enable the legislature to formulate laws that would mete out more severe punishment and thus, probably a stronger deterrent to potential corruptors.
The seminar reasoned that in some instances, corruption occurs because the public officials may lack sufficient understanding of the basic administrative procedures or laws or policies they are supposed to implement. The seminar also considered the possibility of greater decentralization of power, authority and responsibility as a means of diffusing the scope for corruption. It was noted that while decentralization was a possible and attractive option of democratising society and involving a larger number of people in the decision-taking process, it was also recognized that this delegation might create a breeding ground for “decentralized” corruption, making prevention even more difficult when phenomenon is organized at the lower echelons of decision centers. The seminar also recognized that grand corruption is the major threat to the development of fair and equitable economic systems. However, this should not be used as an argument to condone petty corruption on the ground that it accelerates processing time and causes insignificant damage. Both forms and levels of corruption remain highly unaffordable by Africa and Africans.
Participants agreed that the vicious circle of corruption and poverty needs to be broken: a situation in which poverty encourages petty corruption and makes the people vulnerable to the corrupt manipulation by the elite, deepens corrupt practices and aggravates the poverty of the people. It was pointed out that in most cases the ordinary African is too busy eking out a living to be concerned about the problematics of democracy, human rights and the crusade against corruption. This resulted in a culture of silence which in itself facilitates/invites corrupt practices.
The seminar agreed that tackling the problem requires a root and branch approach. Those at the receiving and giving ends are equally responsible for the perpetuation of corrupt practices. The perpetrators need to be checked and deprived of the resources that they accumulate to buy off favours or exert influence on national priorities or policy decisions. A major consensus among participants is the need to make corruption costlier to the perpetrator and the rewards much less significant. It was also pointed out that in so far as the likelihood exists that a corruptor may be able to escape with the illicit proceeds of his activities, for so long would he or she feel encouraged to carry on such destructive activities.
In terms of dealing with the problem, it was noted that there was the need to be pragmatic and result oriented. Targets must not be set too high to avoid raising expectations too high. On the part of the international community for instance it was noted that the push should be more for concerted or collective actions rather than to expect isolated actions from individual countries of the North. In any case such isolated actions are bound to be largely in-effective. It was also remarked that countries of the North have gradually built a general consensus that international bribery rather than accelerate and promote business overseas, especially in Africa, is counter-productive to those countries who permit it.
The seminar recognized that the battle ahead is expected to be a tough and a drawn-out one. The longer-term measures to be taken need to be examined in a more global context and in consultation with the international community. However, it is possible for individual countries to adopt concrete, inexpensive remedial measures in the short – to – medium-term which would at the same time make the operational economic environment more performing and efficient.
One possible modality in this respect may be to utilize advanced technology to streamline and expedite corruption-prone business activities. The example was given of the Mauritius experience; where the processing of papers at potential sources of corruption such as the customs or licensing departments has been made impersonal and automatic. A system of rewards has also been introduced for those public officials who identify, report and help secure punishment for those who indulge in corrupt activities. In effect, the seminar reasoned that as a fundamental step it is vital that governments become more proactive in the crusade against corruption.
Information technology may also be put to good use in monitoring fraudulent activities, keeping an updated database of people/institutions involved in such activities and the sharing of such information between countries or at an international level. The seminar noted that the existence of efficient mechanisms and clear-cut procedures, specially in the allocation of tenders for public works and procurement, would help to contain corrupt practices. It was also important that tendering exercises be open to public scrutiny and publicity and be monitored as well as before and during the event. Above all, the seminar recognized that the integrity of persons in important positions were the best safeguard against all forms of economic crimes. The best system or legal framework would not be operational if the people managing them are not clean and above board.
It was observed that governments in Africa must be encouraged and persuaded to extend the conditions and standards that are applied in the execution of the EC funded projects under the Lome Convention between the EC and ACP countries to other Official Development Assistance projects and should no longer be restricted to European Community sponsored projects alone as is the current practice. The seminar noted that it would not only be immoral but also patronizing for Western countries to continue with policies of accepting lower standards of honesty on the African continent. Given the global nature of the phenomenon and its impact on development potential, the seminar noted that it was important to mobilize all available resources, both nationally and internationally, to limit, and to eliminate to the extent possible, the economic damage caused to developing countries.
While the countries of the North may assist in the process of reducing the level of corruption in Africa, it is also necessary to have a South-South cooperation. In this respect the experiences of other countries of the south who have created institutions, status and other procedural mechanisms may be instructive for other countries in the South who may be desirous of initiating similar actions to combat such untoward practices.
The seminar noted that in most African countries including the Southern African sub-region there are in existence laws that makes corruption a punishable offence. The lamentable fact is that these laws seem not to have served as a means of deterring people from carrying out such heinous crimes. In a related manner, there are quite a number of constitutional and conventional mechanisms and procedures designed to prevent undemocratic conduct and violation of the fundamental human rights, yet governments have been known to violate all of these. The point was made, that the legal system can and has repeatedly been prevented from functioning as designed because of the desires of the government to achieve a purpose totally at variance with the expectations of the constitution. It was also note that in several instances judicial activism and uprightness has not been up to the required standard necessary to concretize the spirit behind the law.
The seminar therefore took the view that to reinforce the capacity and capability of the legal system to deal more efficiently and effectively with the problems of corruption, it may be necessary to consider designing legal systems for “worst case scenario”. Participants took due cognizance of the limitations of the laws and suggested that a wholesome regulatory environment with the necessary checks and balances would be necessary to complement this.
The seminar stressed that the existence of a good legal framework and the strict adherence to the rule of law is a pre-requisite to containing and punishing corrupt practices. It was also pointed out that the need to set up a complex and expensive machinery can be avoided if the laws are clear, precise and unequivocal in interpretation. The training of law enforcement officers is of utmost importance to enable a proper and fair application of the clauses. It is also important to sensitise the population to legal enactments in order to enable them understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens.
Dwelling on the legal and judicial systems as part of the antidote against corruption, it was noted that while good intentions on the part of lawmakers and the constitutions may be a basic starting point, experience over the years have shown that this may not be adequate. Legislation alone may not be effective in limiting corruption unless there is the evolution of a political social culture that is anti-corruption.
One major remedy is the effective sensitization of the citizenry through political education. As part of this process, it is also necessary to build strong coalitions against corruption both nationally and internationally. Participants agreed that it is crucial to involve business and commercial interest in developing such a coalition against corruption. In this regard, at the national level, a partnership has to evolve between the state and the institutions of civil society. This was considered fundamental if the required political culture which eschews corruption and undemocratic forms of governance is to be developed. It was pointed out that the war against corruption would not be an easy one because the tradition of corruption has created systems which benefit people who are not likely to forgo or work against the system easily. The problem at this point it was pointed out is in terms of devising the most practical modality for transmitting a value system which does not condone corruption. The effectuation of this requires in addition to a number of other factors, a vibrant free independent and responsible media.
Reviewing the political structures and process in Africa, the seminar pointed out that over the years in Africa, the powers of the executive appear to have grown exponentially at the expense of the legislature. Undoubtedly, a weak legislature facilitates abuse of human rights, undermines the entrenchment of the democratic process and provides the executive with the added impetus and encouragement to be corrupt.
Another worrisome aspect of the process is the quality and character of parliamentarians themselves. Experience with in and outside the region suggests the overwhelming presence of parliamentarians who do not sufficiently appreciate and understand the crucial role and responsibility of this arm of government in a democracy, and also of parliamentarians who are more concerned about the spoils of office. In other instances, too many parliamentarians are also members of executive. This to course limits and affects the checks and balances and the ability of the parliament to effectively check the executive.
In yet other instances there are either insufficient parliamentarians or limited resources at the disposal of the parliamentarians. The international community may help parliaments in Africa through the provision of some basic infrastructure that would remove some of the basic constraints on the ability of the parliament to serve as an effective watchdog. It was pointed out that parliamentarians require research capacity and ability to keep in touch with constituents.
It was observed that what Africa needs at the moment are not necessarily super leaders or angels as leaders. What is required at the moment are transparent administrative processes that can encourage and allow people to participate, influence and control their governance.
The problematics of financing political parties raised once again issues about the cost of democracy. The seminar acknowledged that it is important that some of the constraints of new democracies be taken into consideration. It was observed that without adequate financing political parties are vulnerable to corrupt overtures from the well-funded interests.
In view of the problems of raising necessary funds for legitimate political party activities such as electioneering campaigns, it was observed that some political parties are in the habit of securing the funding by making promises of future benefits to individuals and corporate bodies in society at large if and when they win such elections. In effect, the seeds of future corrupt practices would have been successfully planted if and when such a party wins an election. If there are only few men and women of character and integrity in parliament what may be available is just the shell of democracy and not much else. Such a development also has very severe consequences for the rule of law structure which in fact is quite fragile in most parts of Africa.
In dealing with the problems of political corruption, which is basically an abuse of political power and authority, it is essential if not imperative that a demonstrable commitment to constitutional ideals as well as greater integrity on the part of political leaders is undertaken. In view of the above shortcomings of the legislature and the legislators themselves, the seminar wondered if it is actually possible to talk of legislative initiatives for anti-corruption measures?
Participants therefore enjoined parliamentarians to also demonstrate stronger commitments to openness and accountability. Poorly performing parliaments it was noted encourage voter lethargy as well as cynicism on the part of the people.
While the power of the parliaments to control the executive must be shored up and increased, it is also important to subject the parliament itself to increasing and greater control by institutions of civil society. It was also pointed out that a Constitutional court can be created as a means of checking on parliament. Such a court can be empowered to interpret laws and bill of rights objectively. The seminar reasoned that the creation of a Constitutional Court would further underscore the realization and acceptance that while the parliament is democratically-elected and the court is not, nevertheless the supremacy ought not to be totally vested in parliament alone but be shared with the courts. The judges are themselves accountable to the law, to the legislature and to the people. Within the legislature itself, democratic accountability is enhanced through public debate, open criticism and free and regular elections. Institutional aids to assist the legislature in the enforcement of public accountability include the us of parliamentary committees which are open to the public, the appointment of a Public Protector or Ombudsman and state auditors who must be unshackled and free to report fully and openly to the legislature and through it to the public.
At the same time political education of voters must be carried out as a supplement to enhance the ability of the society to reject and remove leaders who may be persuaded to act against the larger interest of the society. To this end public information on the dynamics of corruption and similar anti-democratic actions of public office holders must be seen as a crucial weapon in confronting these challenges headlong.
The role of women throughout societies, as politicians and in business and the professions as well as mothers sisters, daughters and wives are very important both in entrenching the democratic process as well as in combating corruption. Women as the purveyors of culture constitute a strong agent in the socialization process. The seminar, therefore, enjoined women and women NGOs to see it as part of their added and sacred responsibility to take the front seat in eliminating the negative aspects of the African development process.
The mass media was identified as a crucial institution of civil society in the campaign against corruption. It was reasoned that perhaps the strongest real safeguard against corruption is an informed public. The media must be involved in promoting vigorous public debate.
The seminar observed it is not enough for the media to merely report instances of corruption, it must also package such a report in a way that it is intelligible to the people. The information must be easily digestible by the people it is meant for. At the same time it is important to do this without becoming unnecessarily sensational. The effective execution of this responsibility is a function of the degree, nature and extent of freedom of the press. As a means of defending and effectively exercising press freedom, it is vital that there should be adequate professional training as well as decent remuneration packages for all categories of media practitioner. These are also crucial if high professional standards are to be met and kept. The major issue that flowed from this was the issue of ownership of the media. It was pointed out that one major problem confronting media practitioners is the operational environment. This was defined to include the professional hazards such as frequent arrests and detention, poor pay structure job security and the need to achieve commercial success and viability by media organizations. More damaging over the years has been the desire to make media organizations commercially viable resulting, in some instances, otherwise responsible media organizations resorting to sensationalism. The point at issue at this stage therefore is the issue of media survival without alternative or additional financial support.
Given the above dilemma, participants wondered if the ability of the media to assist other institutions of civil society in the campaign against corruption is not in serious jeopardy? It was argued that much as the media may be vulnerable to sensationalism and somewhat irresponsible journalism, it would be more damaging for any media organization to accept financial bail out by governments. It was also hoped that in the years ahead, tradition of qualitative journalism would be built but within the realism of demands of the market forces as dictated by the preference of the consumer of media products.
The seminar identified technology as a possible saving grace.
The radio in particular represents the most effective means of disseminating information in the rural areas where the majority of Africans live. Current statistics suggest that the number of radio sets in Africa has increased tend times from a mere seven million in the mid-1960s to over 76 million radio sets today. It was recognized that government owned electronic media appears to be greatest providers of information. However the problem is the issue of the quality of the information, the packaging of the information and the ground rules under which such organizations operate. The seminar argued that the important point therefore is the need to actualize the public ownership of government media organizations as against the operation of such organizations as government property used mainly for propaganda purposes by the government.
Regardless of the above operational and environmental constraints, it was noted that the media has a dual role to play it must assist in fostering a culture of accountability as well as serving as a strong purveyor of the need to prevent corrupt practices. In this regard, it was pointed our that since corruption are acts which are shrouded in secrecy the media should serve as the purveyor of the required light that makes such dark deals difficult if not impossible to consummate. In addition, the mass of the people and other institutions of civil society must also have knowledge of the concrete actions required on their part in case of exposure of corruption in the media. Part of this is the creation and nurturing of a vibrant body politic. As part of the means of achieving this goal, national chapters of Transparency International must involve the media in its activities.
Eighth Annual ALF Conference (OTA VIII) on
“preparing the African Civil Service for the 21st Century”:
The conference was held in Accra Ghana from 22nd – 24th November, 1995. In attendance at the meeting were thirty participants as well as observers and media practitioners covering a cross-section of African life. Justice C.F. Hayfron Benjamin, retired Appeals Court Judge in Ghana and former Attorney General of Botswana, delivered the keynote address.
The main objectives of the conference was to further explore ways and means of sensitizing the African public servants to some of the possible challenges, issues and developmental needs of Africa. The meeting reviewed and analysed the socio-political, the economic and other challenges confronting the African public servants with a view to coming up with concrete and practical modalities for establishing a minimum rationale for an effective, customer-oriented African public service in the years ahead.
This meeting which was originally scheduled to be held in Ota, Nigeria but due to the inclement political situation in Nigeria, it had to be rescheduled to Accra, Ghana. The meeting was thus held at the Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra, Ghana from the 22nd to 24th November 1995. It was the first time since the inception of the ALF that its annual Ota meeting had to be convened away from the Forum’s Headquarters in Ota, Nigeria.
The conference addressed four key challenges confronting the African public service:
1. Can public servants be made more responsible?
2. Can conditions for decolonization of African bureaucracy be evolved?
3. Can an ethical foundation for African public service be identified?
4. Can an effective continent-wide network be established to develop and nurture a new set of values for guiding public service in Africa?
5. The final report of this meeting is at the moment with the printers and will soon be ready for distribution.