Corruption in Africa: First-hand Experiences

In class this week, we talked about building infrastructure and ICT develpoment in Africa.  While examining the challenges to the telemedicine campaign in Ethiopia, and Cape Gateway in South Africa, one  issue that came up during both discussions was government corruption and (lack of) a legal framework in place to support ICT and development projects. So, knowing a few people who’ve been to Africa, I decided to ask them if they had any experiences dealing with government officials during their trips there – here is what I found out:

My buddy studied abroad in Sevilla this past Fall (I actually flew out there in November over Thanksgiving break).  While he was there, he took a trip to Morocco with a few classmates, and they hired a tour guide.  While driving in a white van on their way from Tangier to Rabat, they were pulled over by a Moroccan police officer.  He recalls, “We sat there for like 30 minutes, wondering what was going on; meanwhile our driver’s outside the door having this really heated conversation with the guy. He finally lets us go through, and we asked our driver why the wait. He said the guard was going to charge us to get through…” because they were Americans. His driver explained that most of the police are corrupt and if they see foreigners always pull them over and make them pay.  They got out of it because their driver had a relative in the military.  He was also told by his driver that anyone who gets a speeding ticket can usually take it to a police officer and pay the officer half of the fine amount to get rid of the ticket.

Another friend of mine I asked to share some stories was born in South Africa, and is a citizen of the country.  She currently lives in Atlanta, but had a good story about her parents to share. Soweto is a part of Johannesburg that is home to approximately a third of the city’s population.  It used to be a separate municipality, and at the time of this story, was.  Here is what she had to say:

“It’s the township outside of Johannesburg where the government made all the black people live.  The conditions were horrible, and although things are getting better, there [are] still extremely horrible conditions. My parents…set up a health clinic to provide free healthcare since they had no hospital. It still exists there today, and we visited it last time we went back to SA.”

My friend is my age, 22, her parents around the same age as my parents; so that means that although things are getting better there, in still very recent times, this area of 1.3 million people didn’t even have ONE HOSPITAL to serve the population.

The third friend of mine, who studied abroad in Cape Town last Spring, also had an interesting story to tell me. She told me a story about one night out she was in line to get into a bar.  The bouncer (a black South African) refused to let the two black men in front of her into the bar. An argument and a fight ensued, while the police stood by idly and watched without even coming over to see what was going on.  Well she found out later that the two men were Nigerian, and that there are issues in SA, and a lot of animosity between black South Africans and blacks from other African countries (especially border countries), and businesses as well as the government, regularly discriminate against these other ethnic groups.

These stories really bring to life some of the issues we were talking about in class, about corrupt government officials.  In my own mind, I would usually think of Morocco and South Africa as two of the most developed, corruption-free and democratic African nations. If I were to visit Africa, I would feel safe visiting either of these two countries, yet I can see now that even these countries have a long way to go in terms of a corruption-free government. I can only imagine how prohibitive the atmosphere must be for Western Development Programs in places like the Sudan, Burundi, or Ethiopia.

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About Scott Hurtgen

Recent MHA graduate currently living in Iowa. View all posts by Scott Hurtgen

One response to “Corruption in Africa: First-hand Experiences

  • etherspace

    I like to see some personal accounts dealing with what we have been talking about in class. It is easy to discuss an issue purely on an academic level without making connections to reality. These anecdotes are useful in truly understanding obstacles to development, and without consideration of these everyday problems, how can one even begin to theorize on how to make change. I believe that the failure of many development projects (especially after the pilot stage) is due to this academic distance. Without taking into account the realities of day to day life, no program, no matter how well it may be planned, can be fully effective.

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