African Leaders Need a “Referendum” on
Corruption and AfCFTA

Credit: Transparency International

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By Adebayo Abubakar

As Africans celebrate the birth of the African Continental Free Trade Area, the continent is no doubt set on the path of economic prosperity and the benefits of Africa becoming a single united trading bloc. However, there are problems that threaten the full implementation of the AfCFTA, particularly the hydra-headed monster called corruption.

Corruption is a double edged sword that has a dual capability to discourage goods coming into a country, and at the same, discourage the people of the recipient country from patronising such goods. What do I mean? “Ease of Doing Business” is a bait used by many African countries to attract foreign investors into investing in the countries. However, a situation of extortion at the border by “Corrupt Custom officials” can turn them away from the country in question. If a producer from Zambia brings in his goods to Nigeria, Ghana, or Sudan, for instance, and he is made to pay more than necessary in import duty due to extortion, this would eat deeply into his profit margin and he may therefore, be forced to look elsewhere for a market. This is one side of the coin. The other side of this is that if those who are to ensure standards and quality assurance of the goods being brought are compromised thereby allowing substandard goods to flood the local market, this can completely turn off the local populace from patronising goods imported from that particular country of origin.

 Credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

In addition, corruption, whether at the border post or in the hinterland, costs revenue leakages for the government, thus defeating the aims and objectives of AfCFTA. It is therefore a no-brainer that the need for every member country to tackle corruption internally can never be overemphasized. After all, an African proverb says; “if everybody sweeps his father’s compound, the whole community would be clean”. While it is a common knowledge that corruption is very difficult to eradicate, it is not impossible to reduce, at least, to the barest minimum.

For member states to the AfCFTA to be able to reap the desired dividends, African leaders must come up with an agenda that is akin to organising a referendum on whether they will settle for socioeconomic prosperity for the majority of the people, or a regime of corruption that would benefit a tiny minority, and thereby, putting paid to the dream of AfCFTA. The time for that referendum is nigh.

Adebayo Abubakar is a Nigerian journalist. You can reach him via  email: