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Continental battle against corruption


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ADDIS ABABA, 17 September (IRIN) - The newly-formed African
Union (AU) has set out its first ever policy to tackle corruption which,
 it says, is costing the continent at least US $148 billion a year.
A high-level meeting is being held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa
this week to adopt a comprehensive draft policy that has been a year in
the making. Ministers from the AU are expected to adopt a series of
tough proposals which aim to tackle the graft that has blighted the
It is the first time that countries in Africa have drawn up a universal
policy to be called the AU Convention on Combating Corruption -
designed to tackle its insidious effects.
It calls on all public officials to declare their assets when they take
office and train them on ethics. The bill also urges the private sector
to fight and highlight unfair competition.
The AU argues that by fighting corruption, African countries will
remove the obstacles hindering their economic development. Analysts
estimate that corruption in Africa increases the cost of goods by as
much as 20 percent.
Corruption is currently one of the major afflictions seriously
confronting Africa, the AU said in a report on corruption. Not only is
it rampant all over the continent, it is deeply rooted in society, in
the public treasury and critical sectors of the economy of African
A direct consequence of this is the emergence of a small young class of
billionaires while the rest of the population is wallowing in misery,
the report said. "It is Africas impoverished citizens who bear the
brunt of corruption.
Although previous conventions have been drafted they have never been set
out for the entire continent. Among key elements of the convention is
confiscation and seizure of assets belonging to people convicted of
corruption. Countries that sign up to the bill must also agree to
extradite anyone charged or convicted of corruption.
Governments will also have the power to confiscate documents from banks,
to help with convictions. The AU wants both civil society and the media
to play a role. It believes that by wiping out corruption, it will
foster economic development and attract business to the continent.
The objectives of this Convention are to promote and strengthen the
development in Africa by each State Party of mechanisms required to
prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption in public and private
sectors, said the draft bill.
It also aims to foster transparency and accountability in public
affairs and promote good