CORRUPTION has become part and parcel of doing business in many African countries, COMESA Business Council executive officer Sandra Uwera.
Addressing an Anti-Corruption Compliance training for enterprises at the Hotel InterContinental in Lusaka on Wednesday, Uwera said Africa was losing up to $148 billion to corruption according to estimates of the African Development Bank.
“We have also noted that while a number countries have national anti-corruption Acts, enforcement is lacking,” she observed.
Uwera said companies needed an honest operating environment and therefore governments must enforce international anti-bribery laws and conventions to protect companies from corruption across borders and down the supply chains.
“In a majority of African countries, daily news items will feature at least one article of government officials in self-enrichment schemes, poor management of tax payer monies, banks shutting down due to insider trading, as well cooperate giants engaging unknown suppliers in suspicious transactions,” she said. “When corrupt practices make headlines, the country goes under watchdog radar which affects its trading partnership and investor relations. As citizens of Africa, we need to change our rhetoric in how we conduct business.”
Uwera said Africa was virtually a pod for attractive business opportunities.
“We have minerals, affordable labour force, large consumer base, arable land, diversity of agricultural produce and raw material that can set up the strongest manufacturing bases in the world,” she noted. “In spite of all these dynamics, Africa still has the weakest supply chain networks. Why is this so? This is because SME reputation is not attractive for doing business. Corruption is highlighted as one of the key obstacles or cost of doing business in the region. This has bred mistrust between corporates and smaller enterprises because there is a general belief that there is low enforcement of governance requirements that control corruptible practices for businesses.”
Uwera said research had shown that SMEs generally did not have resources to implement processes to detect and mitigate corruption.
She said COMESA Business Council had partnered with Centre for International Enterprise to provide extensive training to the SMEs in four countries in the first phase in strengthening business integrity through training on recognition, and enforcement measures for compliance in enterprise operations.
“This will encourage transparency and reform initiatives for business. Post the training, the CBC will also develop a regional model code on Anti-Corruption compliance for the COMESA region. The code will be available for use and adoption by enterprises in the whole region,” Uwera said.
COMESA secretary general Chileshe Kapwepwe said combating corruption was a pre-requisite to enhancing regional integration pointing out that there was a post relationship between business integrity and increased capital flows, investment and integration into regional and global chains.
The two-day training has brought together about 60 entrepreneurs.