July 11, 2023 marks 20 years since the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC) was adopted, and it is essential for stakeholders to reflect on this journey to celebrate milestones achieved and re-strategize to combat the scourge of corruption on the continent.

The celebration of the 20th Anniversary thus aims to encourage States Parties and other anti-corruption actors to renew their commitments to the effective implementation of the provisions of the Convention, and to reflect on innovations that could facilitate a better functioning of the anti-corruption system for the Africa we want.

Last week. Global Compact Network Kenya joined other anti-corruption actors in Kenya under the Kenya Leadership Integrity Forum in this commemoration under the theme "AUCPCC, 20 Years After: Achievements and Prospects".

The commemoration drew attention to the values and principles enshrined in the Convention and facilitated the renewed commitment of stakeholders to the achievement of Aspiration 3 of Agenda 2063, which calls for "An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law".

The war against corruption has made a substantial contribution to the ongoing economic transformation, reinforcing the continent’s dedication to attaining equitable and sustainable development as envisioned in Africa’s Agenda 2063.

However, we are still far from winning the fight.

Beyond its extremely negative consequences for democracy and the rule of law, corruption complicates market regulation, hinders private sector-led growth and discourages foreign investment. Corruption, therefore, undermines accountability and transparency in the management of public affairs as well as socio-economic development on the continent.

According to Transparency International’s (TI) 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), many countries in Africa have made little to no progress in ending corruption.

The report highlights how intertwined paths of democracy, security, and development in Africa are eroded by corruption – particularly during a time of global crises as the region struggles to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and an increased cost of living.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 includes an explicit recognition of the need to combat corruption in order to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.

One company’s actions, while critical, are not enough to end corruption. Companies must join forces with governments, community-based organizations, NGOs and other businesses to act collectively against corruption.

SDG 16 clearly set out the milestones to be reached, and now it is time for all actors to accelerate impact and work towards achieving them.

Why should businesses care?

There are many reasons why the elimination of corruption has become a priority within the business community.

Confidence and trust in business among investors, customers, employees and the public have been eroded by recent waves of business ethics scandals around the globe.

Companies are learning the hard way that they can be held responsible for not paying enough attention to the actions of their employees, associated companies, business partners and agents. The associated business risks are often high.

The rapid development of rules of corporate governance around the world is also prompting companies to focus on anti-corruption measures as part of their mechanisms to express corporate sustainability and to protect their reputations and the interests of their stakeholders.

As a result, the anti-corruption systems are increasingly being recognized as evidence that companies are undertaking good and well-managed business practices.

Now more than ever, business leaders need to act with ethical leadership and integrity in order to future-proof their businesses.

What then can businesses do?

Fighting corruption is increasingly becoming a business decision, with companies mobilizing to implement actions to strengthen business integrity to complement measures taken by public authorities and civil societies.

The Tenth Principle of the UN Global Compact states that “Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.”

We, therefore, call on all companies to consider the following three elements when fighting corruption and implementing the Tenth principle:

Create a culture of integrity and openness by introducing anti-corruption policies and programmes within their organizations and their business operations.

Join forces with industry peers, government, civil society, NGOs, trade unions and anti-corruption audit and oversight institutions to enhance communication and collaboration, scale up anti-corruption efforts, level the playing field and create fair competition for all.

Report on the work against corruption and share experiences and best practices.

We continue to promote the Code of Ethics for Business in Kenya - an initiative in partnership with Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM).

By signing onto the code, businesses are committing to treating their stakeholders with respect, running their operations with responsibility, acting in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations and being actively involved in corruption prevention.

This year, as we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), we challenge businesses to remain vigilant and join forces to create a unified front in bringing an end to this systemic issue that is too complex for any company to tackle for us to realize a more sustainable, inclusive and transparent economy.

Written By

Judy Njino