Africa’s Defense Industry Is the Most Corrupt in the World – In the worst cases, armies have in effect taken over their governments

Of the world’s inhabited continents, Africa has by no means the biggest defense sector. Fifty-four African states are responsible for less than three percent — or about $50 billion — of the world’s military expenditure. But the continent also has experienced the largest increase in military spending, an astronomical 90 percent since 2005.

This by itself isn’t surprising. Conflict in a number of North and Sahelian African countries, and a boom in commodity prices in the years after the financial crisis, swelled the war chests of many resource-dependent governments in the region.

Read more on War is Boring.

The shenanigans of the 88 Queensway Group

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Looking forward to reading this report in more detail:

This report examines these linkages by tracking the practices of one group of investors that has been particularly active on the continent since the early 2000s: a Hong Kong-based consortium known as the 88 Queensway Group. Cultivating relationships with high-level government officials in politically isolated resource-rich states through infusions of cash, promises of billions of dollars in infrastructural development, and support for the security sector, Queensway has been able to gain access to major oil and mining concessions across Africa. Starting in Angola in 2003, Queensway has been engaged in the extractive industries in at least nine African countries, including Guinea, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.

Source: The Anatomy of the Resource Curse: Predatory Investment in Africa’s Extractive Industries | Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Grand corruption: Nigeria’s oil revenues

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The Nigerian government just released a Pricewaterhouse Coopers auditing report on one of Nigeria’s biggest corruption scandals of the past decade. Feyi Fawehinmi takes it apart:

So what did it find? That the total revenues for the period in question were $69bn and not $67bn as stated by SLS. It had also remitted $50.8bn and not $47bn as initially thought. So, there was still a gap of roughly $20bn to be explained as before.

[…]

But who or what gives NNPC the right to withhold nearly 30% of the money it receives on behalf of Nigeria and then spend it as it wishes? Here we have a goat locked in a room alone with a yam and no one to supervise what’s going on.

PwC’s opinion is that this practice of withholding money and then spending as it sees fit is highly dubious and that the NNPC act needs a legal opinion to determine whether it has the right to do this. What stops NNPC (the goat) from withholding 50% of revenues (the yam) and then telling us later that it spent it on one thing or the other? Based on this, nothing.

If you are interested at all in the political economy of Nigeria, be sure to read the whole piece, its great. Hat tip goes out to Alex Thurston of the Sahel Blog who has collected several other great resources on the scandal, if you are not up to date on it.

Source: This Yam, This Goat, This Country: PwC and NNPC – Part 1 | Agùntáṣǫólò

[Update]

Alex Thurston also just published a piece looking at the balancing act Nigeria’s incoming president, Muhammadu Buhari, will have to perform regarding corruption:

It has been to the APC’s political advantage to build a diverse coalition – it helped enable Buhari’s victory this year (whereas in 2011, he won only the far northern states). But when it comes to fighting corruption, the coalition will complicate matters, because some people have joined the APC expecting to profit, both politically and financially. If those people don’t get the rewards they expect, that could cause political problems for Buhari, whether in the legislature, with the states, or on the road to 2019.

Again, well worth your time.

Pickaxes into plowshares? Two visions for development in the DR Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a rich land – in theory, at least. Below its soil lie some of the world’s largest reserves of copper, cobalt, tin, tantalum and considerable amounts of gold and diamonds. It is the type of wealth that is measured in billions of Dollars and which has fuelled the industrial revolution in Europe and beyond.

In practice, the DR Congo is poor. Its population of 66 million produces only an average of 230 Dollars per year and person in goods and services, making it literally the poorest country in the world, if measured by that metric.

Little wonder that many people want to change this unfortunate state of affairs. And little wonder, too, that most of these people are looking at the wealth beneath their feet for a solution. The Congolese government, its people, the international community, international and local business – they all have high hopes for the mining sector. For them, mining, and especially large scale operations, are the ticket to a brighter future for the Congo and its people, not to speak of the profits involved.

But mining brings with it a whole host of problems. Apart from obvious issues with environmental degradation, the incredible amounts of money involved with mining projects have so far arguably done more bad than good for the Congo and despite being a major branch of the Congolese economy since colonial times, most Congolese have yet to profit from the riches that are ripped from their soil every day. Can mining really hold its promises for the development of the DR Congo, or are there alternative, better ways for the government, donors and businesses to invest in a brighter future for the Congolese people?

Read the rest on Contributoria.

African Arguments: Blaise Compaoré And The Politics Of Personal Enrichment

I’m extremely happy to have a piece about Burkina Faso/Blaise Compaoré published on the excellent African Arguments blog of the Royal African Society today. The article developed from this earlier rant and develops some arguments further.

By African standards, Burkina Faso is not a particularly spectacular country. It is small, has a tiny population and internal politics which most foreign correspondents tend to find somewhat pedestrian. No wonder that it receives only little attention, even in Africa-focused publications.

In those rare cases when something is published on the internal politics of Burkina, it often only scratches the surface and conveys a deceiving image of the country and its primary actors. […]

Read the rest on African Arguments!

ThinkBrigade: Hunger, rebellion, coup: Mali’s crisis has its history

I’m part of the new project ThinkBrigade, which brings together reporters and citizen journalists from around the world to experiment with new forms of collaborative and interactive journalism. This is my first piece for the project, but others will follow:

Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa, about two times the size of France. It is dominated by vast expanses of sparsely inhabited desert and the fertile surroundings of the Niger river. In historical times, the area was home to powerful empires and the ancient city of Timbuktu, with its architectural wonders, still tells of this era.

Mali is again in the news these days, but not favourably. There are no stories about enthusiastic tourists or cultural richness. Instead, Mali currently lives through a triple crisis: After a devastating drought,potentially millions of people face a hunger crisis. At the same time, a rebellion led by Tuareg fighters has engulfed the North of the country. And if this wouldn’t be enough, a coup d’état has brought a military junta into power in the capital and resulted in harsh sanctions by neighboring states. […]

Read the rest on ThinkBrigade!