The human factor, more specifically corruption perpetrated by people, is to blame for Africa's failure to prosper, despite rapid economic growth on the continent.
So argued Chief Richard Akinjide, former minister of justice and attorney general of Nigeria, during his first visit to UCT. Akinjide - a member of the English, Nigerian and Gambian bars and a specialist in legal matters surrounding oil and gas, mergers and acquisitions, shipping as well as international commercial arbitration - was hosted by the university's Centre of Comparative Law in Africa in late February 2014.
Africa's economic clout is growing, Akinjide asserted: Five African countries are among the 15 fastest growing countries in the world, and Africa's overall economic growth is now significantly higher than the growth of her population. "Moreover, the national economy of more than 20 of the 54 African countries presently grow at an annual rate equal to, or greater than, 5%."
These kind of statistics suggest that poverty should be receding, but government corruption that goes unprosecuted remains one of the principal causes of persisting and increasing poverty in Africa, Akinjide argued. He painted a grim picture of a society where "monetary gains and social status no longer result from knowledge acquisition, effort, integrity and hard work, but from one's skills at fraud and embezzlement".
"As corruption spreads in a society, the notion that success is associated with fraud rather than merit also spreads, especially among the youth, and the value system collapses," he concluded.
Where does this leave us? Akinjide believes that the future of Africa, a continent "endowed with abundant natural resources", is ultimately in the hands of its people.
Story by Abigail Calata. Image by Michael Hammond.
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