Heads of anti-corruption agencies from the Commonwealth’s 19 African member states and stakeholders met yesterday in Kigali, Rwanda. This was during  the 12th Regional Conference of Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa.

The five-day conference, which is being convened under the theme ‘Combating Corruption for Good Governance and Sustainable Development in Africa’, opened with a clarion call from delegates for the need to strengthen cooperation and collaboration among anti-corruption agencies in Commonwealth Africa to help address the gaps in fighting corruption.

Opening the forum, Rwanda’s Ombudsman, Madeleine Nirere, outlined some of the measures the Government of Rwanda has undertaken towards zero-tolerance against corruption, adding that these measures have been made possible not only because of the political will of the Government but also through the cooperation between national and international institutions in the fight against corruption. “Let us challenge ourselves to use this [conference as an] opportunity [to] not only support Rwanda’s corruption prevention and fighting strategies but also be the basis for continued collaboration between Anti-Corruption Agencies, the private sector, civil society organisations and international communities…Anti-Corruption Agencies are leading institutions to fulfil the goals of sustainable development in partnership with other national, regional and international partners. Indeed, these goals cannot be achieved without a strong collaboration with the above-mentioned stakeholders.”

Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt. Hon Patricia Scotland, said “Corruption goes beyond national boundaries and is global in nature. The secrecy in jurisdictions has further made anti-corruption work even more challenging. Co-operation and sharing of information are crucial in the tracking and recovery of assets. We must develop and work on simple mechanisms to recover ill-gotten assets lying in foreign jurisdictions. Collaborations must go beyond the anti-corruption agencies to the anti-money laundering agencies and tax authorities across the Commonwealth. We can win the war against corruption through collaboration, cooperation and through a whole-of-Commonwealth approach which harnesses transformative technologies.”

Secretary-General Scotland added that for anti-corruption efforts to be the best, a Whole-Of-Commonwealth approach can be:

  • Working together
  • Learning from each other
  • And collectively setting the highest possible standards

President of Rwanda, H.E. Paul Kagame, said: “Several reports have indicated that global corruption is now costing around $1 trillion annually. This has severe effects on the lives of our people. This cost is very high and continues to weaken the resilience of our communities…Commonwealth Africa member states can make a difference in this fight against corruption through strengthened cooperation and effective accountability mechanisms. It is my expectation that this Conference will come up with concrete anti-corruption measures and public sector management practices based on the rule of law, transparency, and accountable governance.”

With Africa losing over $50 billion a year through illicit flows, equivalent to all annual official development assistance (ODA), the time for action against corruption has never been more urgent.

The Africa Growth Initiative notes that sub-Saharan Africa received nearly $2 trillion in foreign direct investment (FDI) and ODA between 1980 and 2018, but lost more than $1 trillion to illicit financial outflows. When looking at the whole of Africa, that figure rises to $1.3 trillion – enough money that could lift the 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 per day out of poverty.

Organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with the Government of Rwanda, the conference, over the next few days, will offer delegates the opportunity to discuss the impacts of corruption on sustainable development, strategies and innovative approaches for combating corruption through sharing knowledge, good practices and success stories, and address key priorities towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16.

During the conference, delegates will hear from all those dedicated to anti-corruption through a combination of country presentations, expert analysis, and networking.

Around 200 delegates including members of the Association of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa, senior government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, international experts, relevant international organisations, policymakers, and development partners are attending the conference, which has been held annually since its inception in 2011.

At the conclusion of the conference, a communique will be issued outlining important recommendations that can be adapted by member countries in the fight against corruption. Rwanda will now take chairmanship for the upcoming year.