Mbaku, John Mukum. Corruption in Africa: Causes, Consequences and Cleanups.

Author:Abdul-Korah, Gariba B.
Position:Book review

Mbaku, John Mukum. Corruption in Africa: Causes. Consequences and Cleanups. Lanham, MD, Lexington Books, 2007. 382 pp.

Mbaku has written an excellent book that offers empirical support to prevailing theories that corruption the abuse of public office for private gain is no longer a problem of developing countries but one that has taken a global dimension since the end Cold War. The events of September 11, 2001 in the US has also rekindled interests in corruption as an institution in countries that are targets of terror attacks and has drawn both governmental and nongovernmental agencies into the fight against corruption, especially in developing countries, which tend to provide sate-havens for terrorists to carry out their activities.

Crafted in twelve chapters each addressing a different but related aspect of the problem of corruption in Africa, Mbaku examines the causes of corruption in Africa from the perspective of public choice theory and offers suggestions for "dealing with this important constraint to economic, social and political development in the continent" (p.4). The general introduction traces the roots of corruption to poor policy choices that post-independence African governments made after the demise of colonialism in the 1950s. Rather than economic and political institutions that reflected indigenous values, culture, customs and aspirations of the people, most of the leaders of these new nations "engaged primarily in opportunistic institutional reforms that produced laws and institutions that were not geared toward maximizing the public interest" (p. 1). The net result of these policy failures was that instead of serving as an engine of economic and social development, "the post-independence African state [was] transformed into an instrument for the capital accumulation activities of the ruling elites" (p.3).

Reviewing and critiquing the literature on the definitions of corruption and the struggle to find appropriate measures for dealing with this constraint to socioeconomic development (chapter 2), Mbaku identifies a plethora of definitions of corruption in the literature most of which contain terms and expressions such as "bribery, perversion or misuse of public office or position, nepotism, patronage, sale of public office and privatization of the state" (p. 14). Thus, even though there is some agreement among scholars on the nature of corruption, understanding and dealing with this canker remains an important challenge in Africa because policymakers in many African countries have failed to fully comprehend the dynamics of corruption. Measuring corruption is also a challenge because despite the fact that several methods have been put forth for measuring corruption in Africa--examining public financial records, conducting audits of public procurement systems, police complaints, corruption perception indexes (CPIs), Mbaku identifies setbacks with all of them and laments that "until better and more complete measures are found," analyzing the causes and consequences of corruption will remain a difficult task (p.32).

Using selected countries Nigeria, Ghana, Zaire and Cameroon as case studies, Mbaku examines the traditional causes of corruption and offers...

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