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Kenya, Corruption and Foreign Investment

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Dollar bills in a brown envelopeTransparency International has released its 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), and the results are both interesting but unsurprising. Topping the list are Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore, kicking it Little Mermaid and Hobbit style, with canings for graffiti. Languishing at the bottom of the list of countries you don’t ask to look after your wallet while you visit the restroom is Somalia, which is only surprising if you’ve been in a medically induced coma for the last 20 years.

The top African country (meaning the most honest) is Botswana at the high-ish rank of 33 out of  178 ranked nations. It’s not terrible, but one suspects that it could be better. Still, it is orders of magnitudes better than Kenya’s poor showing, ranked at 154. Seriously guys, that is weak. Only another eight African nations were ranked lower, including Somalia, which has the excuse of being a basket-case. This isn’t just bad for the national self-image; it is also bad for business.

As I say in my post about starting a business in another country, there is a certain amount of research that needs to be done before you decide that foreign climes deserve your hard-earned money. Kenya lurking at the bottom end of the Transparency International table makes it a less appealing prospect than other nations. Not only do foreign investors not know if the terms they are offered are above board, but these days certain countries will prosecute citizens who they suspect of engaging in bribery abroad. This makes Kenya less of a “sure thing” when it comes to pumping money into the economy, and I can’t really blame investors if they look to spend their money elsewhere.

Corruption also hurts the economy at home, especially when it can be hidden under the guise of “commercial confidentiality.” Take the Thika Highway contract for example: what environmental laws are the firms involved being allowed to flout? How come local firms find themselves virtually shut out of the procurement and supply process? Why is it that so few jobs have been generated for homegrown talent? Could it be that the Chinese firms offered a deal whereby if they were given free rein, there might be a little sweetener, a “consultation fee” for a minister or two? I’m not saying that’s what happened, I’m just suggesting that it could.

I love my country, and I want to see it succeed. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t see its problems and realise that the ingrained corruption that pervades our society is holding us back. Things need to change; the old ways of everyone in a chain getting a little bit of something for themselves have to come to an end. If corruption is to be eliminated, transparency must be the order of the day. But this will only happen if we, the people, demand it. That means rejecting politicians who bribe for votes, holding our representatives responsible and holding ourselves to a higher standard, regardless of what the criminals in our midst our doing. If you do a shady deal, I’m going to call you out. And if you see someone else doing the same, you should do the same. Kenya will not get better until the population as a whole stands up against corruption. It is up to all citizens to make sure this happens.

[Image by Evert Haasdijk]


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