I recently surprised my debating colleagues when I called for an external solution to corruption in Africa. I said that since we Africans have tried hard to eradicate corruption and failed, it is time to let foreigners help us.
Removing corruption has been as hard as performing surgery on our own body, we need a new approach.
I argue that all future foreign aid should come with strict conditions that donors can be able to prosecute those they can prove squandered cash from projects specifically funded by them.
Africans have neither the willpower nor resources to adequately tackle corruption. In Rwanda where we have the political will and have been largely successful in eradicating it, our courts still exprience a certain degree of backlog.
Corruption is one of the hardest cases to try, you need forensic accountants who can trace money and not only help convict but recover lost funds.
Most of the money stolen ends up outside Africa in some way, either in banks, real estate, or luxury goods so we need an external solution to compliment our efforts. African countries have up to $100bn either frozen or hidden in western banks, we need to unlock that capital.
The problem most have with this is the idea of a foreigner cleaning our mess, some say we need an African solution – we should clean this mess ourselves. Others say education is the only way to tackle this issue, but corruption is equally carried out in educated and uneducated people.
It is true that education is the long-term answer to this but we need a quicker solution. You can either teach a thief not to steal or get a big dog and he’ll never try.
Right now the risk to reward ratio is still high, steal million of dollars and go to prison for a couple of years and come out to find you have earned interest on your ill-gotten gains.
This needs to be an Africa-wide undertaking, it is no good for Rwanda to be a haven of honesty in a sea of corruption. Every container that enters Rwanda has to pay bribes from Mombasa to Gatuna, those bribes are factored into basic prices of Omo and Blue Band.
The donor community needs the utmost confidence that its funds are well-managed, we need to fight corruption and recover assets, it is mutually beneficial.
Some who disagreed with me said that we should only bring in foreigners when all else has failed. However, one cannot see this as an internal issue alone, politicians accused of corruption often abscond to the West and are beyond reach and wealthy.
We have to plug that gap with bi-lateral treaties with aid donors that can allow them to prosecute our corrupt officials, and in return repatriate corrupt politicians hiding in the west.
Those convicted will be returned to serve their sentences in Africa, and can never be released early due to political interference. Nations that fail to fight corruption or hand over indicted suspects should have aid cut.
I believe that Rwanda will one day be an aid donor nation.
If we were to give Rwandese tax-payers money, as aid we would want to catch those responsible and try them in our courts.
Rama Isibo is a social commentator