It is almost common knowledge in Africa, particularly in Uganda, that the corrupt are normally within the touching distance of the powers that be.
And it is seemingly obvious that in this part of the world, the most corrupt people are more likely to be relatives, in-laws and friends of those wielding political and economic power.
Normally they develop a tight and complicated bonds that tends to undermine the official government-structures meant to check the excesses of the State.
For that, they can wantonly raid the national kitty as and when they wish.
They can grab the best government deals irrespective of whether they are qualified to offer the required services or not.
And despite being at the heart of scandals and other sagas that potentially bleeds and compromise economic development and transformation of the country, they still somehow manage to continue hobnobbing in company of key power centres within the government and the security wings of the State.
They also tend to have unrestricted access to those entrusted with the position of responsibility and influence. And in so doing, sometimes it is difficult to separate their intentions and actions from that of the public servant managing trillions of tax payers’ money. As it is in several cases, they are one and the same.
Send them behind bars
According to Prof Paul Collier of Oxford University and a director of the International Growth Centre, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to deal with this problem whose ripple effect will not spare the economy and ultimately reflects on the quality of lives of the population. In his lecture about the role of the State in structural transformation and development last week in Kampala, the professor said serious leaders who want to develop the economy of their country must walk the talk rather than being talking heads words and no action.
He said: “African leaders need to start jailing their friends if they want to fight corruption.”
He continued: “If they do that, then they will really begin to mean what they say about corruption.”
Without such big calls from the African leaders, Prof Collier in a lecture organised by the Bank of Uganda and the International Growth Centre, said it will be business as usual yet leaders are not only central but also have the responsibility to transform their society for the better.
Your destiny is in your hands
The professor, whose broad lecture touched several aspects of society, economy and politics, including the relationship between all the aforementioned, said African countries, among them Uganda, have the obligation to decide what suits them best as opposed to relegating that responsibility to foreign interests, including the Bretton Woods institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, among others.
He said the tailor made solutions designed by Bretton Woods systems haven’t solved the challenges that African countries such as Uganda are grappling with.
He said over the years, there has been so many global practices and other concepts that have been developed by the World Bank/IMF, all of which are being labelled as priorities for developing countries foot print for development.
“You must be ruthless. The World Bank can set the menu but you must choose the dish of your choice,” Prof Collier said as if warning Uganda and the continent to beware of things imposed on them.
He continued: “There are minimum things that you must do to develop. And the World Bank should not be the one to choose for your priorities.”
Prof Collier argument was hinged on the fact that there are so many global practices that World Bank/IMF are pushing for implementation, on the grounds that they are all important.
The dangers of this, according to the good Professor is that a country will be trapped with a priority of the World Bank and IMF rather than her own priority, which could be disastrous as already proven in some cases. Before his lecture, the Bank of Uganda Governor, Prof Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, said the insights of Prof Collier are not only fascinating but thought provoking as well.
“Many of you will recall that Prof Collier delivered the Bank of Uganda’s Joseph Mubiru Memorial Lecture in October 2011, on the topic of “Managing Uganda’s Oil Discovery”.
The advice he gave in that lecture is likely to become of increasing value to Uganda over the next few years, when commercial oil production in Uganda eventually comes on stream,” he said of the good Prof.
Speaking about the lecture: ‘The Role of the State in Structural Transformation and Development’, he said, issue of structural transformation has moved up the policy agenda in Uganda as well as in other African countries in recent years.
He said it is worth reflecting on why the issue of structural transformation and the role which the state might perform in promoting it has risen to the forefront of the policy agenda in Africa.
Over the last two to three decades, countries across Africa, including Uganda, have implemented economic and structural reforms which have included policies to enhance macroeconomic stability and liberalise markets.
These policies led to improved economic performance, notably in terms of faster real economic growth, lower inflation and poverty reduction. For example, real GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa rose to an annual average of 4.5 per cent in the last 20 years, compared to only 1.6 per cent in the preceding 20 years.
“Despite the much improved economic performance in sub-Saharan Africa, however, the structural transformation of African economies has proved disappointing.
“In particular, the share of the manufacturing sector in GDP has stagnated, in most economies at less than 10 percent. Formal sector job creation has been very weak, reflecting the lack of private investment in labour intensive modern businesses,” the Central Bank Governor said.
It emerged in the lecture that African agriculture has not been transformed by a “green revolution” and, as a result, the productivity of both land and labour in agriculture is very low.
The economic transformation that has occurred in sub-Saharan Africa has mainly consisted of a shift of labour out of agriculture and into informal, micro-enterprises in the services sector, mostly involving self-employment.
There are many concerns with this pattern of economic transformation, according to Prof Mutebille.
Before inviting Prof Collier, he paused and questioned, for example, he asked: “Can the kind of economic transformation in Sub-Saharan countries, Uganda, being one of the member state, generate the sustained growth in labour productivity necessary to raise low income economies to middle income status?”
How will the aspirations of the population for formal sector, permanent employment be met?
Without a green revolution in agriculture, how will Africa grow enough food for its rapidly expanding population, which is projected to double by 2050?
Who is Prof Collier
According to Prof Mutebille, Prof Collier is someone whose work is already familiar with many because of its impact.
He has been researching and writing about African and other developing economies for more than three decades.
His work has spanned a wide range of issues, including inter alia; the economic consequences of export commodity booms, the causes of slow growth in Africa, the impact of foreign aid and the causes of civil conflict in developing countries.