For a very long time, we have grown accustomed to “Western” lectures on corruption – In a previous life, I have also agreed with every Western manager I worked for, who qualified Morocco as corrupt. With the same sad resignation, I accepted that corruption was uniquely African or even a third-world “specialty”.
Much of that thought process has been perpetuated by Indices that highlight a Western view on public corruption ( for example, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index).
While such indices zoom in on the demand side of bribery, what has been sorely missing from those Indices however is the other side of the coin- the supply side of bribery, and its enablers.
Are African leaders corrupting themselves? No. For every corrupt African leader, there are at least ten businessmen willing to corrupt him, and twenty more enablers willing to assist him obscure the origin of the funds and launder them outside of Africa.
The abundance of enforcement actions from authorities in the US ( and more recently, the UK, and France), and their public nature woke us up to an entirely new perspective on corruption and money laundering.
Taking a broader perspective, we recognize the extent to which western multinationals, western accountants, banks and lawyers, and developed countries have been implicated in the problems facing Africa.
One of the most recent examples is Swiss multinational Glencore which enriched itself thanks to decades of corruption and gross misconduct in Africa and Latin America (covered in my world’s most corrupt companies segment). The chain of intermediaries facilitating these corrupt deals must have also made a pretty penny in Switzerland or elsewhere .
While it is impossible to know who initiates most bribe situations, the giver or the receiver, one thing is clear: It takes two to tango, no bribe can take place without both parties.