Guest article: Transparency

Transparency is vital

Fatuma Ndangiza about transparency in Africa. She is Deputy Chairperson of an organisation promoting good governance in Africa.

Fatuma Ndangiza

Fatuma Ndangiza
Fatuma Ndangiza

Africa is a resource-rich continent and home to oil, diamond, gold, timber, name it. However, depending on the way these natural resources are managed, to some countries, specifically those that lack transparent governance, the wealth has turned into a curse. While to the countries that practice transparent and effective governance like Botswana, their wealth has been a source of citizens’ well-being.

Transparency and accountability are twin concepts and important pillars to democratic governance and socio-economic transformation in Africa. Development is about getting politics right and transparent and accountable governance fosters citizen partici¬pation, service delivery, effective functioning of the economy, inclusive growth and also conflict prevention. This explains why governance matters when it comes to resource management. If governance means the exercise of authority in managing resources of a given country, then good governance is about making sure that this exercise of power helps improve the quality of life enjoyed by all citizens.

Anti-corruption and money laundering laws

Africa’s story of the past decade has been a tale of high economic growth, with an average GDP growth rate of 5.4 per cent. About 35 per cent of Africans are now considered middle class. This improved performance of the economy can be attributed to a number of reforms: multiparty elections are now firmly established across the continent and many countries are holding elections that are largely credible. We have also seen the transformation of the Organization of African Unity to the African Union. This is a major step in the evolution towards achieving the ideals of Pan-Africanism and African leaders being more responsive to domestic accountability and embracing good governance as an enabler to sustainable peace.

We have also seen the establishment of adequate legal frameworks, such as anti-corruption and money laundering laws, in a good number of countries. In addition, many have improved their financial management systems, have introduced tax regulations and do practice greater fiscal and budget transparency. And these are but a few examples of the progress achieved lately.

Effective, transparent institutions

However, the beautiful narrative of ‘Africa rising’ comes with a number of challenges: our high economic growth rates must translate into high levels of poverty reduction. The young people must get jobs to become real drivers of economic development. And  the democratic governance which is taking root in our countries has to be supported by effective, transparent and well-functioning institutions as for instance promoted by the African Peer Review Mechanism to which 35 countries have voluntarily acceded by now in order to observe each other.

For the continent to be at peace with itself requires more than the absence of war. It requires embracing respect for human rights and constitutionalism, effective resource management and accountable governance. Our resources must be a source of wealth for citizens and not a resource curse.

Africa has undoubtedly made significant progress, but more needs to be done to stem the loss of revenues through tax evasion, illegal transfers of profits and money laundering. Greater transparency in governance as well as citizens’ participation are essential for Africa to consolidate the gains of the last two decades and to continue on the positive growth path it has entered so well.

Fatuma Ndaginza, former Rwandan Ambassador to Tanzania, is Deputy Chairperson of the Panel of Eminent Persons established by the African Peer Review Mechanism, which promotes good governance in Africa.

published in akzente 2/15

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