On May 4, 2018 when World Press Freedom Day was launched in Ghana to address attacks on journalists, the Ghanaian Media and for that matter media houses across the African continent were also consumed with Western narrative on Political Corruption in Africa.
The loss of lives during one’s professional work through vicious attacks and imprisonment in all forms must be condemned in the harshest terms regardless of which institution, agency or actors involved.
As I sit in my little cubicle watching some of the public pronouncements by Western journalists on a critical issue of Political Corruption which many experts consider as a development issue, I could not help but to ask myself why African media houses and journalists have been compromised to do the bidding of Western media houses’ narrative on political corruption in Africa.
Are our media houses and journalists lame ducks or just out of touch with the realities of promoting a new narrative of political corruption in Africa? Political Corruption in African countries has become endemic, as such, it is found almost in all aspects of life.
Endemic corruption implies a breakdown of the rule of law and in most instances a loss of state legitimacy. Research has shown that corruption perverts the normal use of connections, networks and reciprocity and leads to increased personalization of power. As a result, people come to rely on connections and favors instead of formal political, social and economic rules and illegitimate use of state resources.
Political Corruption by some of its most adherent authors acts an ‘emollient, softening conflict and reducing friction: it facilitates foreign investments blocked by national protectionism; it makes it possible to circumvent the administrative obstacles that sap entrepreneurial spirit; it promotes national integration and increases citizen participation in public affairs.
Every government in Africa be it military, civilian or democratic have in the past or continues to accuse its predecessor of engaging in some form of corruption. This has been the Western narrative for decades now and African media houses and journalists have become the conduit of championing this age-old decade’s narrative. Research has shown that every year, an estimated $70 billion, and increasing leaves Africa through illicit financial flows (IFFs).
According to Mr. Raymond W. Baker, Global Financial Integrity, the massive flow of illicit money out of Africa is facilitated by a global shadow financial system comprising tax havens, secrecy jurisdiction, disguised corporations, anonymous trusts accounts, fake foundations, trade mispricing, money laundering techniques etc. Mr. Baker describes this as “the Ugliest Chapter in International affairs since slavery”.
Prominent cases of political corruption on the continent have failed to make the front pages of media houses in Africa. For example three years ago, in the Halliburton Bribery Scandal which dates back to 1994 when the Nigerian government launched ambitious plans to build the Bonny Island Natural Liquefied Gas Project, reporting by Premium Times on files obtained from HSBC, a huge global bank based in London revealed that a network of secretive banks and offshore tax havens were used to funnel $182 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in exchange for $6 billion in engineering and construction work for international consortium of companies that included a then Halliburton subsidiary. Reporting on the endemic culture of political corruption and corruption perception indices by both Western and African media houses and journalists in Africa is a just façade to dissuade a real debate on the impacts of this canker on the peoples of Africa.
What international Western houses and institutions like CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Transparency International etc., fail to ask are “In whose interest do political corruption take place and who tend to benefit most from political corruption in Africa? On the impacts of political corruption on the development of Africa and on the lives of the people of the continent, Africa’s lame-duck media houses and journalist must come into terms with the realities and ask the appropriate questions, define and promote a new paradigm and discourse on political corruption to inform, educate and rally citizens participation to fight this challenge.
By: Benjamin Akwei, Ph.D.
(Professor of International Relations & Comparative Politics (Africa & Middle East)