African countries take fight to corruption

South Africa is not the only African country with a power utility compromised by dubious business links to Dubai. It has Ghana for company.
Even as President Cyril Ramaphosa was shuffling his Cabinet to replace the minister of Energy, his Ghanaian counterpart, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was pondering his options. He finally fired Minister of Energy Boakye Agyarko, and Dubai features prominently in his downfall.

In 2011, with South Africa in the throngs of Nkandla, Duduzane Zuma and the Gupta family, Ghana was milling. Then the best place to do business in West Africa, it boasted one of Africa’s best presidents in John Atta Mills, but was battling power outages.

Mills’s successor, John Dramani Mahama, attributed some of the outage to Nigeria’s failure to supply it with gas.

The power crisis pushed the country into a deal that resurfaced this week with the sacking of Agyarko. Desperate to restore the economy to the glory of its Mills days, the Ministry of Energy signed a $510million deal.

It was a Build, Operate, Own and Transfer power agreement with Dubai company Africa Middle East Resources Investment (Ameri) in 2015.

Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang AS labelled the deal as being overpriced. It also alleged that Umar Farooq Zahoor, a Norwegian born in Pakistan who had played the role of a middleman in the transaction, was wanted for fraud and money laundering in Norway.

Implicated in what was reportedly a corrupt arrangement, Ameri instituted a $150m defamation lawsuit against the publication.

The story did not go away – and it gained popularity in Ghana.

The New Patriotic Party, currently in the government but the opposition then, promised to undo the deal if voted into power.

It won the elections in late 2016 and right away targeted the Ameri contract.

Although Ameri argues that the pricing was not an issue because similar turbines had been sold in Greece and Algeria at comparative rates, the departure of Agyarko from office signalled the seriousness of the Akufo-Addo’s administration to undo corruption.

It is commendable that many African governments are tackling malfeasance, although this will take time and persistence.

Apart from Ghana and South Africa, there is Liberia, Tanzania, Angola, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.

By no means perfect, the countries are proving that corruption is not an African – but human – trait that must no longer be countenanced.

In Tanzania, John Magufuli’s government is pressing for more transparency in mining, especially tanzanite and gold. Recently, he squeezed a $300m settlement out of Acacia which was eager to quash the case of underpayment of royalties and taxes against it.

Magufuli built a 24km wall around the tanzanite mining fields to stem fraud and theft, although this is yet to yield significant returns.

Now, he is threatening to shut down MultiChoice for non-compliance with an order to refrain from charging clients for what should be free-to-air services.

Angola, since the departure of José Eduardo dos Santos from office, brought down the empires of the former president’s children.

João Lourenço removed the sons of his predecessor from powerful positions like the helm of the sovereign fund and the reversal of some of the mega-contracts won by the business empire of Isabel dos Santos.

In Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa tried to recover money stolen and stashed abroad by opening an amnesty period for anyone involved to come clean.

He did not manage to get as much as he had hoped, netting in a couple of hundreds of millions instead of billions, but it was a start.

In Nigeria, close to a billion dollars were repatriated from Swiss bank accounts held by former military ruler Sani Abacha.

The money is said to be deployed to good causes by the federal government.

While these are not perfect countries and the leaders not infallible, they are all veering in the right direction; others can only follow.

As for Dubai, its allure as a stepping stone to Africa will continue getting scuffed by investigations and lawsuits.

* Kgomoeswana is the author of Africa is Open for Business, a media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs, and a columnist for Destiny Man. Twitter Handle: @VictorAfrica

The Sunday Independent

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