UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
AFRICA: IRIN Focus on good governance
[This IRIN report does not necessarily reflect the views of the UN]
ABIDJAN, 24 November (IRIN) - A mechanism designed to monitor and promote good governance in Africa, called the African Observatory on Governance, was established on Wednesday at the end of a three-day conference in Abidjan.
"The Observatory's task is to develop a composite indicator of governance," Achi Atsain, president of the West African Economic Association, said at a news conference.
Atsain was the main organiser of the conference which focused on good governance and sustainable development which, Ivorian Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan said "shows that Africa is taking seriously the issue of good governance and democracy". Duncan added, "We need to ensure that the observatory is operational, efficient and can be put in place quickly."
He said the Observatory would promote mutual help among African countries and facilitate rational use of all the continent's resources.
Miguel Schloss, the Executive Director of Transparency International, an NGO dedicated to improving government accountability and curbing corruption, told conference delegates that the Observatory needed to incorporate four key elements to be effective: political and technical credibility; a partnership with reliable regional and international organisations; informing the public of the meaning of good governance, and development of a clear mission.
A conference source told IRIN that the mechanics of the Observatory had not yet been worked out but it was likely that the ADB would flesh out some of its ideals.
"The key to the success of the Observatory is the level of African support it attracts," a donor official told IRIN. "This does not just mean government institutions but civil society and academia as well," the source added.
"If multilateral and bilateral donors see that Africans have made a substantial contribution to the process, they will follow suit," the source said.
Corruption a recurrent theme
The scourge of corruption was a recurrent theme for delegates at the conference which included some 250 included senior politicians, civil society representatives, parliamentarians, members of the judiciary, government officials and bilateral and multilateral lenders.
"The levels of corruption have become so scandalous in African countries that development is simply not possible," Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said through a spokesman.
"Reports clearly indicate the huge volume of resources often transferred out of Africa to developed countries by corrupt African leaders," he added.
"Corruption hinders efficient resource management,
undermines efforts to reduce poverty and compromises
sound and private sector development," Omar Kabbaj,
president of the African Development Bank (ADB), said.
The chairman of Ecobank group, Gervais Djondo, said that the private sector had a major role to play in promoting good governance. "Major business failures in Africa, which affect the wider economy, have usually been traceable to a lack of good governance." he said.
He added that bank failures in the late 1980s and early 1990s were usually due to poor ethical standards "leading to insider loans and misallocation of funds and resources".
Sociology Professor Jean Ziegler, who is a specialist on developing countries, termed the vast flow of capital from North to South as a "scandal", accusing Western countries of "hypocrisy", at the news conference.
"Major corruption cannot flourish without the expert advice of foreign bankers, particularly in Switzerland," Ziegler told IRIN. "No European country would accept the high levels of debt found in African countries," he added.
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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999
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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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