As a follow up to my post about Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's talk, I wanted to focus on one area she touched on, i.e. the nervousness around doing business in Africa because of the perceived corruption all over the continent.
As she rightly points out, Africa is a continent. It's not a country. Yes, there are some countries plagued by war, some where corruption is rife, and some in the grips of famine. But there are also many thriving countries that are innovating their way into positions where they are up there with world leaders e.g in Mobile payments. Africa is home to five of the 10 nations that have the most start-ups, a powerful testament to the creativity and will of Africans to find their own way to economic independence and stability in spite of in many case, staggering employment shortages.
In his recent article on innovation in Africa. Andy Baldwin, leader of the Europe, Middle East, India and Africa region for EY, says he sees "Africa as a vibrant and bourgeoning continent full of many opportunities. But, of course, like any continent, it has its own unique set of challenges". He further notes that there are early signs that the innovation revolution that Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Botswana calls for may not be far off.
But on to my real issue which I don't think is given as much air time as it deserves. What is the financial services industry doing to tackle the theft - because let's call it what it is - of money belonging to countries in Africa, by either individuals or corporations who then use the safety and protection of in most cases, the UK banking system, to hold those ill-gotten funds? It seems a bit incomplete to confidently talk about and cover the corruption and misappropriation of funds with the confidence that comes from the in depth research we come to expect from world media when it comes to covering "the dark continent".
If that's the case and where are the follow up articles about where these funds are held and how these felonious leaders are able to access them with such ease and regularity, that they can sustain their lavish, bizarrely lucrative public servant appointments? How are the banks holding these funds and invariably profiting from the custom of the nefarious politicians and illegitimate business people, not complicit in the financial and political wrongdoing, and as such, in breach of financial services regulations?
I'm genuinely perplexed and would love to hear from anyone who can comment on or elucidate on the regulations that perhaps could and should be triggered to finally discourage and as a result, meaningfully tackle the greatest crippler of development of Africa.