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Governance in Africa

Melvin Ayogu is concurrently Director of the Executive MBA program and a Visiting Professor of Economics at the School of Business Administration, American University of Sharjah; Fellow, Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA), Johannesburg, South Africa, and Adjunct Professor, Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, South Africa. Previously, he was a Fellow, Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings Institution, Washington DC. His work focuses on governance, infrastructure, and economic development. Governance in particular is a profound challenge in Africa. According to Dr. Ayogu, most of the economies of Africa are characterized by a weak fiscal federalism in the sense that the centre is unable to exercise command and control over the spending proclivities of the federating states. Furthermore, a combination of leeway within the government and constitutional immunity during incumbency enables office holders to abuse their budget at will, which in turn creates a crisis of growth in Africa, relative to other parts of the world.

The economic divide between north and south is particularly pronounced in Africa. Dr. Ayogu’s work further suggests that the prospects of election, and its complement, the threat of delayed detection do not appear to affect the choice of whether leaders will plunder their nations or not. Rather they mitigate the level of plundering. More effective deterrents toward corruption come in countries where instantaneous detection and removal from office is feasible.

The overarching policy implication of the discussion and insight from Dr. Ayogu’s research is that by building capabilities in value recovery, the instantaneous detection threshold can be lowered. Developing such capabilities undoubtedly places the vice (asset stripping) in the vise with the screws turned on. In fact, by initiating the Stolen Asset Recovery, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime and the World Bank jointly anticipated this insight. Strengthening the repertoire of devices for the detection, identification, tracing and confiscation of criminal proceeds can combine with political accountability to serve as a potent deterrence by credibly threatening that stealing public money is a losing proposition because such a crime will no longer carry a positive longterm payoff. Here, the effectiveness of international cooperation and its articulation with the parallel development of relevant domestic institutions will be crucial. The West, in other words, must continue to engage with Africa in order to ensure that whatever halting progress has been made in this area is sustained.

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