This edition of Perspectives tackles questions of state capture, and how the concept can contribute to understanding and strengthening democracies across Africa. Our contributors also open the possibilities that emerge when “state capture” is released from particular institutional settings and national boundaries.
In 2016, various allegations were made by opposition politicians and the media of a close and corrupt relationship between then President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family from India (several of whom had had their applications to become South African citizens fast-tracked).
Perspectives spoke to Crispian Olver, a former government official and author of How to Steal a City: The Battle for Nelson Mandela Bay – An Inside Account, to help make sense of the state-capture phenomenon in South Africa.
Any analysis of state capture is incomplete if it fails to grapple with the network of private actors that facilitates unethical, corrupt and other criminal economic activity. A narrow focus on the structural and institutional weaknesses in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the South African state risks ignoring equally institutional and systemic problems in the global financial sector that enable corrupt elements to spirit away ill-gotten wealth.
Since the launch of Transparency International (TI)’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 1995, Kenya has invariably foundered in the bottom third of the countries surveyed. TI-Kenya’s Bribery Index reports widespread bribery; some institutions, including the police, land registries and county licensing services are notoriously predatory.
Since January 2018, the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC), the entity responsible for the country’s electricity distribution, has found itself under siege by an organically mobilised and extremely angry battalion of Kenyans from all walks of life in their quest for energy justice.
Nigeria’s history as an independent country is very closely intertwined with the history of its oil industry. The “black gold” was discovered in a small village called Oloibiri four years before the country took the reins of its affairs and stopped being a British colony in 1960. No other economic activity has shaped the country as oil has.
Senegal is often referred to as an example of democracy in Africa. The country holds regular free and fair elections, has a vibrant civil society and a population protective of its democratic achievements. On the back of numerous anti-corruption efforts, Senegal fares comparatively well in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (67/180). However, according to a study by the Senegalese National Office to Fight Fraud and Corruption, 95.3 percent of the general public and 61.7 percent of professionals attest to the presence of corruption in their immediate environment. Although the country has had its fair share of grand corruption scandals, the term “state capture” has not yet found its way into the Senegalese vocabulary.
The idea of a Fourth Industrial Revolution has captured the imagination of many in Africa and around the globe. Media headlines point out both the potential and the risk associated with advanced technologies for the continent.