Mo Ibrahim speaks on “Why Governance Matters”
The 4th Global Development Lecture Series of the John A. Kufuor Foundation featured Dr. Mo Ibrahim, chairman and founder of The Mo Ibrahim Foundation and a well-known advocate of good governance in Africa. Dr. Ibrahim spoke on the topic “Why Governance Matters.” The event took place on Thursday 20 November 2015 before a capacity audience at the Great Hall of the University of Ghana. It was chaired by Sir Sam Jonah of the Jonah Capital and former chief executive of Ashanti Gold.
In attendance were former President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana and former presidents Joachim Chisano and Hifikepunye Pohamba of Mozambique and Namibia respectively, and Ahmed Salim A Salim, former prime minister of Tanzania. Also in attendance were former and current members of the Ghanaian governments, students, traditional rulers and members of the diplomatic corps.
On Good Governance
According to Dr. Ibrahim, governance is one of those often seemingly intractable problems — difficult to address and a challenge to measure. It can be tricky territory for development organizations and while they may have a role, Ibrahim said, it is ultimately private citizens that must be mobilized and empowered to hold their governments to account.
A first step is ensuring that people have the facts at their disposal — to that end, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation created the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, which uses more than 100 variables to rank African countries’ governance based on performance in four key categories: safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development. The latest version was released earlier this month and the news isn’t great.
In the last four years progress on governance in Africa has stalled, according to the index. Some 21 countries, including five of the top 10 have deteriorated in overall governance performance since 2011. Topping the list are Mauritius, Cape Verde and Botswana, but all three have shown some declines in the past four years. The bottom of the list isn’t much of a surprise — the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Somalia are the three worst-performing countries.
While governance is a people-focused issue, Ibrahim believes that business has to take a stand on corruption too, characterizing it as a “cancer” that poses a big problem for the private sector.
“The amount of money lost in Africa is much more than the total amount of aid it receives and that raises some questions,” he said.
But it’s not just about bribes and misappropriated money; it’s also about other forms of illicit funds like mispricing. And it is incumbent on the business community to step up.
“There is no African leader who is corrupting himself. Corruption needs partners and who are the partners? The partners are business people,” he said.
That burden falls partly to the countries where offending companies are based. Ibrahim is unabashed in calling for stricter rules and enforcement. While he praises U.S. efforts through the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, he is quite critical of Europe, which dragged its feet on similar legislation and has been slow to prosecute.
Ibrahim has seen the problem firsthand. His former chief financial officer, a Frenchman, once told him bribes were no problem because they fall under the category of business expenses and are therefore tax exempt.
Part of what bothers Ibrahim about this issue is the hypocrisy of developed countries, who lecture African countries on corruption and yet through policies or lack of enforcement contribute to the cycle. His success and wealth have afforded him a platform to tell world leaders just that.
One story he shared involved a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. When conversation turned to corruption and governance, Ibrahim challenged her and asked for a specific example of when her government took action against a German company. When she answered with the example of Siemens, which in 2008 paid $1.6 billion, the largest fine for bribery in modern corporate history at the time, that wasn’t good enough.
“I said no. Siemens was taken to court because it corrupted your own society … not for what they’ve done in Sudan or Nigeria,” Ibrahim recounted
Following introductory messages from Sir Sam Jonah and former President H.E. John Kufuor, Mo challenged his mainly student audience to be part of the governance journey and have this conversation with their leaders.
The stimulating evening concluded with questions from students.
Selected quotes of the evening
Good governance lies at the heart of all successful organizations
We need leaders who care about the legacy they leave –Sir Sam Jonah
Good governance is the biggest challenge our continent faces for the foreseeable future -H.E. John A. Kufuor
You can live without oil; you cannot live without food; African leaders should pay greater attention to agriculture
The worst thing you can do is lose hope. We must make sure our young people have hope. Our future is in their hands – Mo Ibrahim