The cost of corruption in Africa is higher than the total combined amount of development aid that the continent receives from foreign donors, according to estimates by the African Development Bank. Corruption is a major factor stunting Africa’s development.
It’s already 16 years since the adoption of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC). Although the convention has enabled some creditable progress, corruption remains pervasive and ingrained in both public and private life. In fact, the so-called anti-corruption regimes, from Nigeria to Sierra Leone to Liberia, are marred by discouraging flaws.
However, Africa isn’t giving up. The continent is mobilizing its youth to advance an anti-corruption crusade. Recently, the African Governance Architecture convened high-level regional youth consultations under the theme “Leveraging Youth Capacities for the Fight Against Corruption in Africa”. The programme was in line with the African Union’s theme of the year, “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”.
When governments and institutions fall short, can the new army help out? African millennials are proving capable in a variety of distinct and effective ways. In May, a cohort of 157 civil society organizations (CSOs) from 37 African countries declared war on corruption in an open letter to the African Union.
Here are three more phenomenal ways the youth army is starting an anti-corruption revolution in Africa.
1. Using tech as an anti-corruption weapon
Abuse of public funds has been rated as the highest level of corruption. Thanks to technological innovations, African youth are challenging this problem and becoming emboldened to keep tabs on government expenditures, budget processes and executions.
On the front line of this action is BudgIT. Founded by two young men, Oluseun Onigbinde and Joseph Agunbiade, the civic organization empowers people in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ghana to fight corruption in public space. This is achieved by simplifying budgets and public finance using technological tools.
BudgIT specializes in data mining to curate stunning, relatable infographics that help citizens make sense of budget figures, question authorities and hold them accountable. It’s also turning citizens into real-life anti-corruption tsars with a tool called Tracka, an e-platform on which citizens share updates on budgetary and development projects in their communities.
BudgIT has been commended widely for exposing trifling budgetary items and phantom projects by corrupt politicians. According to the civic hub's 2017 annual report, it exposed a 41 million naira ($113,575) budget said to be funding a ‘non-existent’ youth centre in Jega Community, Kebbi State, Nigeria.
The minds behind Follow The Money, a youth-based social accountability movement, are doing similar deeds in Gambia and Kenya, after starting in Nigeria. Standing against corruption and, in turn, making life better in hundreds of rural communities, Follow The Money has tracked more than $120 million with technological tools.
“Our daily mission is to ensure that international aid and government spending aren’t siphoned, but strictly used for their original purpose”, says its founder Hamzat Lawal.
2. Social media as modern protest and advocacy tool
When Harvey Olufunmilayo, a Nigerian medical doctor working in England, initiated the #EndBankingFraud and #Reform9jaBanks campaigns on Twitter, he typified how African millennials are making the most of social media.
Commercial banks in most African countries charge fees for card maintenance or withdrawals from ATMs. Such charges do not exist in other regions of the world.
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Olufunmilayo couldn’t stand this. He mobilized day and night. The online protests paid off. The Nigerian parliament, heeding the voice of the youth, ordered the immediate suspension of charges. President of the Senate Dr. Bukola Saraki also ruled that the Central Bank chief should appear before parliament to “explain why the official charges as [previously] approved by the CBN are skewed in favour of the banking institutions, as against the ordinary customers of the banks”. These big wins were made possible by social media.
There’s more to what these digital savvies are doing and achieving. As recommended by Transparency International, social media celebrities are playing pivotal roles in helping the anti-corruption gospel gain more momentum. Thought leaders including Japhet Omojuwa are spreading the #AfricaAgainstCorruption campaign to millions of youth online, giving everyone a necessary sense of belonging, while promoting a new culture of anti-corruption.
3. Civic engagement cum political participation
Amid the official grapple with corruption (if not the failure to root it out), one thing has become evident: urgent actions by youth-led civil societies are more crucial than ever. The reason is obvious. Nearly 45% of Africa’s one billion people are under the age of 15, while another 38% are between 18 and 45. Africa is a continent of youth. The onus is on them to decide how to act.
Across Africa, there’s a growing wave of civic actions against corruption, alongside a push for youth inclusion in politics and governance. Anti-corruption activists are leading mass demonstrations in South Africa, Kenya, Malawi and several more countries. Entertainment superstars including Innocent Idibia, ONE Campaigns’ anti-corruption ambassador, are throwing their weight behind the movement. Young people have a critical role to play in the war against systemic corruption, and in democratic reforms in general.