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Student Number: 212553195 Student Name: David James Ojochenemi ETHS703 Comparative and Applied Ethics Lecture: Dr Murove F M

Does African Corruption Exist? By William De Maria in Murove F, M, (ed) Page 357-374 1. Summary In this article, De Maria tries to unravel the mystery underlying the lacuna between the formal (and most often international) condemnation of the so-called African act of corruption and their frequency, and outright cultural legitimacy amongst ordinary people. In other words, he is asking: why is the west so bordered about what is acceptable among the ordinary people? He tries to show that the West peculiar intervention on issues relating to corruption in Africa is simply but a third phase of colonialism. Certain understanding of corruption in Africa is simply the west mechanism purported at keeping Africa continuously under control. Such understanding of corruption in Africa hinges on events such: as rigged election, raid of state treasuries, officers propensity towards bribes, among others. He asks: who defines these as corruptions? Corruption defined in terms of the exploitation of private benefits under the guise of public duty is sociologically naive, and is to be rejected for its western sympathies (:362 ).

Meanwhile, it must be understood from the onset that De Maria is not denying the reality of corruption either in the world or in Africa. What he basically questions is: what acts constitutes corruption especially in Africa? Is it what the West has tagged as corruption or something else? He is of the opinion that any exploration of corruption divorced from the cultural context misses the point. And a proper understanding of corruption in Africa is imperative to finding a lasting and indigenous solution to the issue. Hence, to understand corruption from an African perspective, it is only required that the African culture be taking into serious consideration. By so doing, we might discover some ulterior motives behind some of the western anticorruption movement across Africa, and the possible reason(s) behind their obvious failure. According to De Maria, the Wests anticorruption campaign is only a disguise of its expansionist economic interest in Africa because they are simply saying corruption is not good for the (First World) trade (:364). We could ask: are some of the Western anticorruption movements geared towards political and economical self interest? The answer to the question, the author believes, is vital to answering the main question: does African corruption exists? And if it does, then a better indigenous solution to the problem of corruption in Africa is discernable.

De Maria underscores the western dominated interpretation of corruption as being determined, to a great extent, by the canonical power of individualism, as it pertains to matters such as personal conflict of interest and extracting private benefit from public office(:362). Such understanding takes no cognisance of other salient factors such as family, village, history and ethnicity. The Wests

generalization of such parochial interpretation of corruption is a brash deception, according to De Maria (:363), since it fails to recognise the irrefutable reality of cultural variance. Corruption does not necessarily have universally agreed definition. De Maria also highlights that corruption is disputably inimical to economic growth. This is evident from the fact some countries in the developed world with high rate of corruption recorded a higher growth rate than the countries with lower corruption rate in both the developed and the developing world according to the 2004 World Bank, Transparency International, facts book (:363-4). One wonders why there is such a difference despite the link between economic growth and corruption.

Taking into consideration the import of culture in the whole understanding of corruption, De Maria draws on the difference between the western understanding of corruption and Africans. Corruption viewed from the western perspective is basically a polarization between the public and private sector but such viewpoint does not seem to correspond to the Africans. He explains this ethnographical dichotomy in the understanding of corruption based on the work of three writers, namely, Eke, De Sardan, and Smith, whose prolific works showed vividly how the idea of corruption could be wrongly imposed on Africans. According to Eke, the public- private divide is not applicable in Africa society. Rather, in Africa there is the private realm, which is differentially associated with two public moral universes namely, the primordial public (as associated with kinship) and the civic public (associated with colonial structural administrations) (:365). Eke contends that unlike the primordial public, which entails a life characterised by obligations to the larger group and concern for its welfare and continuity, the latter has no moral linkages with the private realm. This makes political actors operate in two different realms. An obligation to the primordial is not exchangeable with rights as in the case of western understanding of obligations. The western conception of rights presupposes that one is obliged to acts incorruptly especially with regard to the use of public resources.

However, the Africans sustain their primordial public through the gains from involvement with the civil public. Hence the unwritten law is that it is legitimate to rob the civic public as long as the purpose is to strengthen the primordial public (:366). The African person is morally obliged towards the family and neighbourhood rather than to the governments. This dialectic conflict between the civil and primordial realms that characterised the modern African politics undermines the western notion of corruption (:367). Following the same train of thought, Smith highlights the central place of the primordial realm as opposed to the civic realm among the Ibos of Nigeria. Allegiance to the family to the detriment of the government is not considered as corruption. Hence, what may appear as corruption to the western eye may be seen as moral behaviour from local perspectives. De Sardan also shares the view of Smith by arguing that there is no shared and internalised conception of the public domain due to the traumatizing experiences of colonialism, the absence of public property at the village level, and inter-tribal rivalries. In nutshell, the three authors converge on the claim that what the West may tag as corruption in Africa may not necessarily be seen as such by the African person

because of the cultural promotion of loyalty to the family and relations, and because of the division created by colonialism. ANALYSIS Answering the question: does African corruption exist? could prove very difficult given the cultural dimension to a proper understanding of corruption itself. As the author rightly notes, divergent interpretations of the term corruption abounds. However, the point of convergence for these very many different western understanding of corruption seems to hinge on what De Maria refers to as the private- public dualism. By this the author means the western understanding of corruption, for example, as the diversion of public resources to non-public purposes Werlin (1973:73). According to De Maria, such conception of corruption becomes oblivious to the African understanding owing to the fact that there is no such private-public dichotomy. Where such exists, the public realm is considered as amoral and as such, no act under this realm attracts any ethical verdict. Therefore, no corruption exists at that level. Yet this is the level from which Africans actions have been judged by the almost universalized notion of corruption by West. Given the plausibility of the above argument especially in relation to how Africans actually behave as opposed to how they are supposed to behave (if there is such a how), I do agree with De Maria that there is a difficulty is judging certain acts among Africans as corruption. However, I found the argument lacking in substance apropos what should be properly considered as corruption as understood from an African perspective. De Maria does not give us concrete example(s) as to what constitute corruption in Africa at the primordial realm, if the commonly noted acts of corruption lack adequate translation in African context. Which unethical behaviour (s) could be termed as corruption in the African context? If what could be commonly termed as nepotism of in Smiths narrative of the Ibos is not corruption, then there is need to outline what is corruption in Africa. A salient contribution of this article however, is that it challenges researchers to delve deeply into a proper understanding of corruption in African context capable of finding its root cause and right solutions. As Dele Olowu (1993: 227), an expert in public administration in Africa, rightly observes one of the reasons why governmental corruption has grown to be pervasive in Africa today is primarily because much efforts has been spent to remedy the problem rather than to understand it. What is deducible from such observation is the undeniable fact that the phenomenon, corruption, exist in Africa, which apparently seems neglected by this article. Meanwhile, I also do agree with the author on the claims that the anticorruption crusades of the West, while they may not be considered as unnecessary or evil, have somewhat been designed to further the political and economic self interest of the Western world in Africa. This is not to say corruption ought not be fought against where it exists. Rather it is to show that the unprecedented clamour of the West to eradicate something that is not necessarily peculiar to Africa, namely corruption in Africa, is arguably not without any ulterior motivations. Little wonder the so-called problem of corruption in Africa, rather than decreasing as result of the foreign interventions, has being on the increase for decades in many African countries. As the author rightly pointed out, unless the deep factors of African cultural life is put into consideration by any Western solution to African corruption, the

latters anticorruption campaign, for all its worth, is bound to fail. And to do this, the question: does African corruption exist? ought to be answered as doing so is tantamount to finding what African corruption is and finding its root cause which are all very vital to cubing to this menace where it exists. Bibliography De Maria, W 2009. Does African Corruption Exists? In Murove M (ed) African Ethics: An Anthology of Comparative and Applied Ethics. Pietermaritzburg: University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Press Olowu, D. (1993). Ethical violations in Nigerias public services: Patterns, explanations and remedies. In S. Rasheed, & D. Olowu (Eds.), Ethics accountability in African public services. Nairobi: African Association for Public Administration and Management. Werlin, H. H. (1973). The consequences of corruption: The Ghanaian Experience. Political Science Quarterly, 88(1), 7185.