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The Four Types of Africa’s Corrupt Power Elites: How to be Corrupt in Africa October 10, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Africa Rising, Colonizing Structure, Corruption in Africa, Illicit financial outflows from Ethiopia, Land and Water Grabs in Oromia, Land Grabs in Africa, The 2014 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, The Colonizing Structure & The Development Problems of Oromia, The Tyranny of Ethiopia, Undemocratic governance in Africa, US-Africa Summit, Youth Unemployment.
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 (picture: TPLF/Ethiopia’s corruption Empire)






SHAPE OF THE CONTINENT: How to be, or not to be, corrupt in Africa where one size does not fit all

Christin Mungai, Mail & Guardian Africa





SOUTH Africa is awash with stories of corruption scandals touching on key public figures; from President Jacob Zuma on one end, to opposition leader Julius Malema on the other.

All is not well in Africa’s richest economy. However, recent reports paint an even bleaker picture for the continent in general. One noted that “acording to most of the available indicators, the war on corruption is at a standstill. In fact, these indicators show that corruption is actually increasing in countries where its impact is likely to be most harsh”.

How bad is it and, most importantly, WHY does it happen? We think a large part of it is down to the nature of the various states in Africa.

We took the scores of African countries in two indicators from the latest Fragile States index compiled by Foreign Policy: factionalised elites and state legitimacy. The former measures conflict and competition among local and national leaders, while the latter measures corruption and other measures of government performance and electoral process.

We plotted each country’s deviation from the mean on the two indicators, and the resulting scatter diagram suggests intriguing things about African states; especially how much is “up for grabs”, but more importantly, how the corrupt are corrupt – the strategies which would work if you were looking to loot public coffers.



See infographics @ https://magic.piktochart.com/embed/3030773-untitled-infographic


The Ones who Share Nicely

In the top right quadrant are the “democracy star-performers” – Mauritius, Botswana and Namibia are the far outliers, as well as countries like Ghana, South Africa, Lesotho, Tanzania, Benin and Senegal (mouse over the coloured dots to see specific countries). The countries in this have low competition among elites, and a high level of state legitimacy: citizens feel they have a stake in the country, their votes matter and they can hold leaders accountable.

On the surface, it seems that these countries have mature democratic processes and are committed to the rule of law. But it might also suggest something else – that where corruption exists, there is an “elite consensus” on graft, which means that leaders do not fight for the pie today because they know their turn will come with the next (democratic) election when they win power. Ghana is a good example here – there isn’t that overt looting of state coffers that you might see in other African countries, but you can still benefit illegally from public funds – if you play nicely.

The strong state in these countries also suggests that in order to be steal public money in this countries, you have to “formalise corruption”. In other words, because the state is strong, you have to use formal channels to enrich yourself – lobbying Parliament to make rules in your favour would work here. South Africa is the classic case here – Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), for example, was intended to reduce the economic disparity between racial groups entrenched during apartheid, but it has morphed into a vehicle for a few well-connected black businessmen to enrich themselves – this class of nouveau riche beneficiaries is disparagingly called “tender-preneurs”. But even that name suggests that to benefit from state largesse, you have to have a modicum of formality – you have to register a company, fill and submit tender forms, etc. In these countries, you can’t just ride roughshod into the Treasury.

How to win: Be literate, learn how to write a proposal, and know how to do cocktail chit-chat.

The Ones who Only Share among Themselves

In the top left quadrant are a number of countries that have a high level of state legitimacy – they score high in governance and fighting corruption – but they also have high competition between elites. Rwanda and Ethiopia show up here, two countries which have a military-turned-civilian regime in power. In Rwanda’s case it is the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), while in Ethiopia’s case it is Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front. In these countries, elections are not fiercely fought for across the board (the Parliamentary contest might be hot, but not that for president or prime minister) as it is almost taken for granted that the ruling party and/or its candidate will win.

So something else plays out here: internal competition within the party is intense, but you have to be “one of us” to be a legitimate player in the game. So we see these regimes coming down hard on “dissidents” because the game can only be played within the boundaries and uniformity of the ruling party. In Rwanda, for example, perhaps the reason openly gorging yourself from the public coffers is frowned upon here is because “everyone can’t do it” and it would make certain individuals stand out, not necessarily because it’s wrong. Liberia and Mauritania also feature here, but for different reasons: Liberia has a long history of a “ruling class”: Americo-Liberians, descendants of freed slaves, ruled the country exclusively since independence in 1847 until 1980, so to be in the game, you just had to be “one of them”. Mauritania also has a ruling class called the “white Moors”. So the elite can fight among themselves – Mauritania, for example, has  had a dozen coups or attempted coups since independence from France in 1960—but they firmly shut the door to outsiders.

How to win: Join the party, but always watch your back.

The Ones who Don’t Share

In the lower right quadrant are countries like Angola, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Republic of the Congo and Swaziland. They score low on competition among elites, but high on corruption. Why aren’t the elite fighting among themselves? Here, the reason for this disparity might be simple: the elite has entrenched themselves firmly into power, they have sunk their roots deep into the state system, and aren’t going anywhere. But there’s a difference between them and The Ones who Only Share among Themselves –the ruling class is small enough to keep “eating”, so there isn’t any need for competition within that small group. Swaziland is an absolute monarchy, so it perfectly embodies this “total exclusivity”.

Ruling elites here have a steady income supply, like oil (or royal tributes), to provide an endless bonanza – and it explains why most of them have had long regimes in power, twenty years or more: Jose Eduardo dos Santos in Angola, Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso, the Bongo dynasty in Gabon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso (with a short interruption) in the Congo and King Mswati in Swaziland have all been in power for more than 20 years). There just isn’t any real competition; and luckily, the money is enough to keep everyone who matters happy. In Angola, for example, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos family controls practically all the major sectors of the economy: his daughter Isabel is famously Africa’s first female billionaire, with assets in telecoms, banking and diamonds; daughter Tchize runs a television and communications network; son Coreon Dú is a music producer and singer; and son José Filomeno heads the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

How to win: Marry into the family and live quietly.

The Free for All: “Democratically Corrupt”

In the lower left quadrant are the conflict-plagued states: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, others with widespread civil strife – such as Zimbabwe, Libya and Eritrea – as well as others which, on the surface, aren’t “quite so failed”- Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon and Nigeria. These countries have the bad scores, both in the level of corruption and in the factionalisation of elites. Corruption here isn’t exclusive to some long-established ruling elite, or to any formal party structure. Outsiders do have a chance of getting in, but there isn’t enough to go around – the elite is too large, and there are too many vested interests.

It means that elections tend to be a “winner-take-all” scenario, fiercely fought on the ground. Still, there’s a silver lining here: the fact that politicians are fighting for citizen’s votes suggests that votes actually count. But here, there isn’t really an expectation to play nicely, or share with others, so we see lots of rogue behaviour, elites tend to thrive on chaos and unpredictability. The weakness of the state gives rise to strong lawless groups – such as Boko Haram or al-Shabab – and the country is vulnerable to civil strife.

How to win: Be a bully, and never, ever show any weakness.






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