Politics of Corruption in Africa

  • John Sunday Ojo
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-31816-5_3556-1


Definition of Terms

Politics of stomach infrastructure

A political logic popularized in Africa that considered distribution of money and material stuffs as an alternative approach to woo the electorates in order to garner their political conscience during election.

African democracy

This is a democratic paradigm modeled as hybrid or semiauthoritarian regime.

Political corruption

This is misuse and abuse of political office for personal aggrandizement or benefit. It also dwells within the context of either elected representative or political appointees involving in the manipulation of the rules and regulation or state laws for personal benefit.

Introduction: An Expedition Toward Contemporary Politics in Africa

The contemporary political nomenclature in Africa cannot be well understood without the instrumentality of precolonial political structure and the mechanical application of modern political arrangement devised by the colonial authorities. Africa’s historical formation has its own unique sociocultural, political, and traditional representation. The African traditional political system was based on communal panache with an element of collective participation in local affairs. The spirit of oneness has made the traditional political system more unique in the world. Accountability was sacrosanct, even than Western societies; the chiefs handled both communal functioning and even any natural catastrophe that occurs. The chiefs may be asked to go to exile or commit suicide if he violates the fundamental ethos of social order (Ake 1991). It is in line with Ake’s argument that Salih (2001) recognizes the democratic structure of African indigenous institution, he argues that democracy was embedded in African precolonial administration; however, the colonial and postcolonial political systems have commandeered the exclusion of citizens from democratic governance. Therefore, modernization theory applied toward African political renaissance is considered to have trampled on indigenous political institution and gives no room for citizen’s participation in governmental affairs. As a result of this exclusion, African states are subjected to poverty, weak institution, and global pressure to adopt western democratic lifestyle, endangering independence and postindependence developmental efforts (Ake 1993). It can therefore be argued that the precolonial Africa was governed on traditional model, with basic principles, adhered with, by both the indigenous community and their traditional chiefs.

In the context of colonialism, African traditional chiefs were mobilized to support colonial sociopolitical structure; incentives were offered to fascinate indigenous chiefs for the exploitation of economic resources. The policy of divide and rule were instrumentalized to appease local populace, the superior ethnic groups were orchestrated to subdue ethnic minority groups, people were mobilized against one another, hence, form the origin of ethnic majority-minority crisis in Africa. In the pursuit of promoting colonial economic agenda, monetary reward were offered to African chiefs to pacify the uprising of freedom fighters as it was revealed in the case of Mau-Mau in Kenya. Colonialists employed corruption tool to woo African chiefs in support of their economic plan and political domination (Mulinge and Lesetedi 1998), considered as the origin of corruption dilemma in Africa. One of the advocates of this view, Patrice Lumumba contends that corruption syndrome “is an import, nurtured, developed and entrenched in the continent of Africa” (Lumumba 2011, p. 5). A further philosophical sensitivity of this school of thought includes the one acknowledged by Ebbe (2005), he argued that:

The seed of political corruption was sown in African countries during the European Scramble for Africa and the subsequent colonization of the various people of Africa. In the process, many ethnic groups (tribes), without ties of consanguinity or religious affinity, were amalgamated into one country. Some of these countries may have as many as 250 ethnic groups. It was, and still is, an uncomfortable marriage or union. Some of the amalgamations were achieved by corrupting some tribal leaders to concede to the amalgamation at the opposition of a related tribe, sending to exile the leader of the opposing tribe, and making the conceding tribal leader the sole administrator of both tribes. The colonial administrators bribed the conceding tribal leader to concede to the colonial hegemony. Gifts of European manufactured goods to the tribal leaders were the quid pro quo. Political corruption therefore imported into Africa South of Sahara’ (p, 101).

The ethnic divides echoed by colonialists, therefore, leads to what Ekeh (1976) popularized as “two publics” that characterized the current African sociopolitical disorder and served as the origin of corruption in the region. This view manifests in everyday life in Africa till date. This could be found in economic, political, and social arrangement. However, before the departure of colonial officers, struggles were made against the colonialists in several African states, people were mobilized to agitate for independence, and some of freedom fighters have had western education, either home or abroad. The unrelenting agitation, thus, led to declaration of independent in some African states. Prior independence, African political elites were recruited from freedom fighters; they were charged to take control of economic resources for the general welfare of the citizens. They were saddled with the responsibility of designing people-oriented policy that alleviate endemic poverty, incorporates diverse ethnic configuration, and provide an inclusive democratic political platform for the citizens (Mbaku 2009). Very few of those that championed African independence had professional livelihood; on this basis, many of them were appointed to coordinate African political affairs. This opportunity was perceived as a reward for the independence struggle. The institution was therefore devised by the political leaders to foster ethnic, religious, and regional sentiment, consequently, becomes a backdrop for corruption and hegemonic politics in African political landscape (Gumede 2012). The integration of African elites into public affairs during the departure of colonialism led to economic, social and political supremacy of the political class that repels Africa’s postcolonial states. Their interest can, therefore, be evoked as an exemplification of postindependence regimes (Branch and Cheeseman 2006). It is against this background that Osaghae (2005) explained it all that,

the state in Africa was created and integrated into the global capitalist system as a peripheral formation by colonial authorities, principally to serve the needs and interests of global capitalism, and it has done so since then. In this scheme, the interests of the Africans themselves were, and remain, submerged. This is the major reason for the disjuncture between the state and society, which has kept the state derooted and alien (some say irrelevant) to most ordinary peoples. It is in the context of the de-rooted state that notions and structures of the common good, nationhood, citizenship, public morality, legitimacy, accountability and transparency have malformed, been lacking or fiercely contested.

In the postindependence regime, Africa has developed its nonconformist breed of democracy. “African-style democracy is often the most minimalist, most limited and most elementary kind of democracy. In African-style democracy the state is the major tool for accumulating wealth. That is also why there is a proliferation of political parties in African democracies – everyone wants to have access to the state so they can become wealthy” (Gumede 2015). Moreover, African nations adopted democracy without institutional foundation for democratic values. The absence of democratic institution to facilitate democratic process serves as a major challenge to African democracy. African election is attributed to vote-buying, election rigging, electoral violence, and all sorts of electoral criminalities that subject democracy to a game for the highest bidder at the advantage of political capitalists. The institutional failure and hybrid democratic foundation create ominous platform for backward democratization or incomplete democracy in the region (EISA Conference 2007; Rose and Shin 2001). It is believed that the dearth of genuine democratization impairs the realization and survival of sustainable development in African postcolonial state (Alence 2009).

In the 1990s, democracy returns to African nations, this nurtures aspiration for good governance; its acceptance in the 1990s constitutes rearrangement among a range of stakeholders; including political elites, civil societies, and international communities; hitherto, very few of the African states are considered operating liberal democratic system. The contemporary democratic movement in the continent is measured as a strategy to retain international legitimacy to fascinate foreign aid and foster corruption (Obianyo 2008; Thompson 2010; Hanlon 2004). Hence, it is difficult to christen African democratic model and therefore raises confusion to the scholars of politics (Ake 1993). The ascendancy of corruption in African politics is considered as a major obstacle that responsible for Africa’s tribulation; such assumption generalizes the nature of African states (Szeftel 2000). Ake (1993) therefore concludes that corruption is perceived as a device through which “big men” provides a political template for clientelism and patronage to loot state resources espoused to compensate political allies. Thus, this entry explores the linkage between African contemporary democracy and political corruption, considering paradigms from Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Nigeria.

The Current Debates on Political Corruption

Corruption as a concept is surrounded by scores of ideological complexities, defining it becomes a laborious intellectual task, especially, to situate it within the divergence political climate. Despite all these complexities, corruption is considered as misuse or abuse of power, funds or political/administrative positions for private gain. This intends to explain accumulation or diversion of public wealth for private advantages. However, in the political context, it entails diversion or misuse of public funds for personal aggrandizement. Merely considered the political sophistication of corruption, misuse of political power by the government in power, or its agency can be situate within the concept of political corruption.

In a similar direction, Heidenheimer et al. (1993, p. 6) opines that political corruption “is any transaction between private and public sector actors through which collective goods are illegitimately converted into private-regarding payoffs”. This definition establishes the involvement of the government and its agency. However, understanding political corruption within the state can be difficult without ironing out bureaucratic corruption. This is because, the state cannot function without the bureaucrats whose obligations are to facilitate the decision making of the political class, including enforcing law and order in the state. Although, some policy makers and scholars usually construct political corruption alongside bureaucratic corruption, Amundsen (1999) shed more light in understanding this dichotomy between the two conceptual arguments. He argues that bureaucratic corruption occurs at the implementation stage of the policy made by the political office holders. In this context, political corruption can be explained in terms of involvement of elected or appointed representatives in diverting public funds for private utilization. In this environment, the political class uses their offices to influence and siphon state funds aided by their political status while bureaucratic corruption operates within the public administration milieu and therefore disengage politics from administration.

Political corruption also views as misallocation of resources, manipulation of government procedures, rules and regulations by reconfiguring the ethical standard of the state by the political office holders. Lodge (1998) argues that it is a situation whereby the state laws are circumvent and fashion in line with the individual political elites, when laws are abused, misused, or disregarded by those in power to protect their personal interest. Beyond that, political corruption also constitutes electoral fraud and electoral manipulation at the advantage of the either incumbent regime or the political colossus whose political influence can be felt in the polity. This may also be established in the context of exchanging money or material benefits for electoral support. This is more pronounced in the contemporary African democracy which was popularized in Nigeria as “politics of stomach infrastructure.”

The Nexus Between African Democracies and Corruption: Examples from South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria

Most African states have followed the political steps of former colonizers in the postindependence regimes. They employed the political model operating in the western colonial states. Experience from Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya attempted parliamentary model applicable in the Britain prior independence while French colonies followed comparable fashion (Ozor 2009). However, despite the adoption of western political style, most African states are still categorized as hybrid regime – a pseudodemocratic states or semiauthoritarian (Cranenburgh, 2011).

A manifestation of the dynamics of institutional corruption and spoil politics in African democracies is found in a study conducted by Transparency International, it found that 44% of parents have paid unlawful fees for free education in Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Madagascar, Niger, and Senegal (Transparency International 2009). In Zimbabwe, local councilors have liaised with housing officials to buy government houses and sell them at inflated rates for the citizens (Transparency International 2015). In Kenya, the political regime of Mwai Kibaki was alleged of inflation of contracts by the anticorruption agency led by John Githongo. In Liberia, the government that ruled up till 2005 was alleged of stolen more than $100 million annually (Ellis 2006). The culture of primitive accumulation by the public officers saddled with the responsibility of safeguarding public treasury has portrayed African postcolonial state (Appolloni and Nshombo 2013). Hence, leading to conflicts, civil war, terrorism, political instability, poverty, and exasperating developmental cynicism (World Bank 1997).

Democratic Republic of Congo

In Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), started from the political regime of Mobutu Seseko, the primacy of corruption is institutionalized in the political and bureaucratic framework. Corruption forms a coordinating network through military personnel, civil servants, and political office holders. Also, corruption was also accredited in the judicial system, a situation whereby adjudication is based on the level of wealth or affluence, political, and social status. The judicial verdicts are not instituted on the evidence presents in the court of law. Furthermore, judicial institution is also being used by judicial officers to chastise their enemies. The custom that is saddled with the responsibility of safeguarding counterfeit goods also serves as facilitators of smuggling operations. Corruption also manifests among directors of public institutions and proliferation of “ghost workers.” Almost every public sector is involved in corrupt practices (Mbaku 2010).

In Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), corruption saturates all levels of government, constituting involvement of both senior and junior civil servants. This is evident in a study carried out by Global Corruption Barometer; it is believed that 62% of the citizens interviewed have paid bribe to government officials within that year. The payment of bribe involves some of the key government parastatals and functionaries, including judiciary, police, tax, permit, education, revenue, and registry. In securing government contract, private companies have to pay bribe before the contract could be approved. In the 2010 World Bank Enterprise Survey, 65% of the companies interviewed have agreed that they have paid bribe to the government officials in order to secure contracts while 75% of them agreed that they need to present informal gifts amounted to 9% of the secured contract to the civil servants who are in charge of the contracts. Corruption also forms the primacy of electoral conduct in the country. The 2011 election in the country reveals various form of electoral corruption such as election manipulation, rigging, campaign financing, and voters’ registration. The parliaments, police, judiciary, public officials, the military, and educational institutions are considered as most corrupt in the country (Transparency International 2013). The reason for endemic corruption among the Congolese public servants is attributed to poor salary. Before any service could be rendered to the public, the citizens need to facilitate it by providing bribe. For instance, in 2005, public officials from various ministries including the ministry of mines, foreign trade, communication, and transportation were indicted due to corruption (Harsch 1993).The obscurity of corruption has therefore continued to eclipse daily governmental business in Democratic Republic of Congo.


In Tanzania, the colonial occupation in the region has a great impact on the general composition of the political system. The origin of corruption in the country is attributed to the unaccountable colonial administration that control political machinery in Tanzania. Colonial government institution was accountable to imperial state and its allies while profits are transported to overseas. The state was cohesive to serve the interest of colonial rule; while the interest of the people was subjugated. This legacy was therefore inherited by Tanzania and other East African nations in the postcolonial regime. The debris of colonial institution has, therefore, typifies the structural framework of corruption in the country (Sedigh and Muganda 1999). The level of corruption has increased over time in the country, from independence in the 1960s. The endemic corruption has its place in bureaucratic organizations. The hierarchical composition of Tanzania’s public organization provides a responsive dais for intensive corruption in the country. The citizens that want specific services have to abide by the procedural framework of the government, and thereby becomes challenging to the people who might want quick service delivery. Thus, provides an opportunity for public officials to ask for illegal fees for the speedy provision of public services (Masabo 2014).

As at 1990s, the Tanzania’s presidential report on corruption found endemic corruption that constitutes illegal payment, unlawful award of contract, and illegal procurement channeling through the government institution (Gray 2015). In the twenty-first century, corruption continues to manifest within the Tanzania’s political terrain; it revolves around the top political officials, top ranking government personnel, local industrialists, and multinational corporations involving a series of unlawful activities such as kickbacks, looting of public treasury, bribes, among others. The case of Richmond and Independent Power Tanzania Limited (IPTL) illustrate how grand corruption entwines with the ruling party and international business organization that has becomes a very foundation of Tanzania’s political life. In 2005, an advertisement was publicized by Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (TANESCO). All the applications submitted for the project were rejected as a result of lack of financial capacity and competence; among the company rejected was Richmond Development Company. However, the political support for the Richmond Development Company was later championed by the then Minister for Energy, Mr Msahaba, the Prime Minister, Edward Lowassa, and the new Minister for Energy, Mr Nazir Karamagi. The Minister for Energy therefore instructed all his subordinates to approve all the necessary documents regarding the contract to Richmond Development Company. In the aftermath of the contract approval, the company was found incapacitated to actualize the electricity project. This led to intervention of parliamentary enquiry into the mode of awarding the contract. The panel found that the approval of the contract negates legal and procedural laws in awarding contracts.

In another related case, in October 2014, the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) was ensnared in the corruption scandal that entails illegal energy contract that worth US$112 million. Consequently, led to the suspension of foreign aid by the twelve international donors and the resignation of some political juggernauts from the parliamentary chamber (ibid); therefore, “corruption is then shown to be socially embedded in logics of negotiation, gift-giving, solidarity, predatory authority and redistributive accumulation” (Sardan 1999, p. 25). In this context, corruption has been domesticated in the public institutions that have reproached the country's international political image.


After many political upheavals of authoritarian regimes, democracy returns to Nigeria in 1999, which symbolizes another historic political landmark in the country. However, the phenomenon of corruption has remained the Nigeria’s biggest challenge; the everyday corruption has heaved the nation back to recession, underdevelopment, and astronomical increase in unemployment. Concurrently, the country is plagued amidst ethnic configuration, bad political leadership, terrorism, sociocultural hindrances, and big-man politics and therefore led to democratic hybridity and rocky democratic experience. Nigerian political structure is personalized to the extent that it is difficult for ordinary citizens to have access to basic necessities of life. According to Seteolu (2005), “these socially imbibed values are replicated in the political terrain where contending coalitions accumulate resources to offset side payments required to retain or expand followership in the context of power politics. The fierce struggle in the public space is linked to conflicts that characterize leadership succession in traditional political systems and the attractions of political control where party politics guarantee access to wealth and economic power”

Money politics also takes another dimension in the country, in terms of obtaining party nomination form; the contender must have acquired millions of naira, thus, disenfranchising those with genuine interest of the country. Money has been a veritable tool in the hands of politicians to manipulate and influence election results. While the citizens have bowed to the mammoth threat, especially, the youths who are unemployed or victims of poverty, consequently, instituting political hegemony (Muse and Narsiah 2014); Therefore, money politics serves as a determinant for political participation and representation, youth and women in this process become the victims who have no access to economic resources (Adetula 2008). Due to prevalence of poverty, the citizens are found succumbing to the whim and caprices of the political elites who have the power to influence electorates by distributing money and material needs, thus empowering political representatives to be unaccountable and fostering corruption in Nigeria’s political space (Tar and Shettima 2010).

Electoral contestation becomes expensive due to vote-buying at all levels of government. In a study, it was revealed that there was astronomical increase in political expenditure in 2003 elections. The study emphasized the possibility for political godfathers who are responsible for financing election to request repayment in monetary values or by influencing government policies. Money is therefore at epicenter of Nigeria’s democratic politics (Bryan and Baer 2005). Elections are won based on financial muscle; the practice becomes traditional way for electoral contestation at local, state, and national levels. Thus, money remains an apparatus to determine the outcomes of elections in Nigeria’s political terrain (Adebayo 2011). If the citizens can be swayed to compromise their electoral right, therefore, it is difficult to categorize Nigeria’s democratic model as ideal one (Bratton 2008).

There are numerous factors that can be adduced to Nigeria’s money politics. These factors include poverty, ignorance, altitudinal problem, and political apathy. Due to high level of poverty, some electorates consider election period as an avenue to get their democratic dividends from deceitful politicians. They sell their votes and get their “national cake.” Also, the inability of political contestants to articulate comprehensive manifestoes provides another alternative for adoption of money politics in Nigeria. Moreover, political skepticism on the part of electorates who have perception that politicians are full of self-seeking, corruption, and that the whole political processes are fraud due to past political experiences, therefore, payoff is considered as another political logic to get their share (Agbaje and Adejumobi 2006).

The recent discovery of subterranean arms procurement funds [$2.1.billion] looted by the former National Security Advisor, Col Sambo Dansuki (rtd) during President Goodluck Jonathan’s regime, discovered by the anticorruption institution [EFCC] led by the incumbent administration of President Muhammadu Buhari exemplifies how democracy is instrumentalized to facilitate corruption in the country. Additionally, election rigging, kickback, inflation of contracts, bribery, ghost workers syndrome, and embezzlement become a political way of life for public office holders in Nigeria (Dike 2008). Corruption also revolves around electoral cycle in Nigeria. The 2007 election has been assessed both locally and internationally. The election was rated as the worst in the history of electoral administration in Nigeria. It was symbolized and sheathed with electoral corruption. Electoral corruption in Nigeria’s 2007 election involves stuffing of ballot boxes, manipulation of election results, among others (Omotola 2010, p. 549). Under the regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan, corruption has been widely reported among political paraphernalia. The public declaration by the former Governor of Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi, that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) could not account for $20 billion from the sale of crude oil also symbolized how corrupt Nigerian public institutions are (Ross 2014). The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been considered as the hub and propeller of corruption in Nigeria and this validates the theory of “resource curse” which makes the country a “rentier state” (Obi 2010). In the sector (NNPC), contracts are awarded based on political affiliation, while all Nigerians refineries have malfunctioned, the reason for the total neglect of the refineries is to allow political partners to benefit from the stealing of refined oil importation (Premium Times September 16, 2015).

South Africa

In South Africa, Lodge (1998) argues that corruption in the country has its origin in homeland department. The nature of corruption in South Africa is unique to other African states where corruption has pervaded every political space. However, corruption is evident in various dimensions in the country. Based on empirical clarification, corruption is embedded in the country’s administrative machinery. For instance, the case of financial director at the Ntsika Enterprise Promotion Agency, a government owned institution established to facilitate small-scale businesses serves as an example. Shine-On Hadebe was sacked in 1996 as a result of misappropriation of R70,000; Mkhwanazi, who was appointed to replace the sacked manager, he was also alleged of embezzling R211,000. The Independent Broadcasting Corporation managers were alleged of corruption that forced some of them to resign. Even academic institutions are not exempted from the malignant corruption in South Africa. In the University of Venda, a senior official was caught in the corrupt act in the attempt to cash a check in the name of the University without the knowledge of appropriate authority in the institution. It also surfaces by exchanging money for marks in South African universities, as it was evident in 1996.

Another form of corruption engulfs the leadership of President, Jacob Zuma. Zuma was alleged of advocating for a bribe from the head of South African branch of Arms Company which was under investigation. It is believed that the bribe aimed to guarantee the political support of the vice president so the company would not be prosecuted (Amundsen 2006). In a corruption related development, President Jacob Zuma was also implicated in a 355 page report titled “State of Capture,” the report contains allegations, and in some instances evidence, of cronyism, questionable business deals, and ministerial appointments, and other possible large-scale corruption at the very top of government (CNN November 2, 2016). The allegation against the President led to massive protest against his regime by the civil society organizations in South Africa. Started from the transition of power from Nelson Mandela regime, corruption has been the national debates in South Africa, from one regime to the other; the syndrome of political corruption has continued to subdue the political leadership and international integrity of the country.


In the early year of independence in 1963, Kenya had already nurtured wealthy capitalists; it is on this pedestal that affluence is measured as a precondition for political triumph. Those who were lucky enough to get to the mantle of political leadership automatically became the member of affluence group or vice versa. The sustainability of the wealthy aristocratic cabal was based on manipulation of contract procedures in which the political class influenced or awarded contracts to themselves. The 1998 saga in which some forces within the state operative circumvented contract procedures exemplifies the porosity of Kenya’s state institution, serving as a devise to sustain corruption in the country (Mutounyi, 2005). In Kenya, Corruption is notable among government parastatals. The model of Kenya’s corruption is so exceptional that it forms coordinating network amongst public institutions. “Kenya is one country where is a complicated syndicate of corrupt officials between the police, the public and the judiciary, that you cannot easily extricate one from the other. It has been observed that investigating such corruption cases could be very difficult because, if legal authorities (prosecutors or judges) do not support anti-corruption probes, ways can be found to obstruct such investigations” (Anassi 2004, p. 24–43).

According to Akech (2011), he argues that corruption is institutionalized among the executive, legislature, and judiciary in Kenya; it is believed that none of these apparatus of government are excluded from the network of corruption the country. According to him, the corruption scandal that involves importation of oil and maize and the looting of free primary education fund demonstrates how grand corruption has eaten the institutional foundation of the Kenya’s government. Unfortunately, the judiciary that would have safeguarded the public treasury has been merged with the autochthonous network of the looters in the country. In a similar experience, the case Goldenberg International in 1990s which necessitates conspiracy among the government authorities, including the Ministers, senior civil servants, and wheeler-dealers to loot public funds in the course of embarking on government projects demonstrates interconnectedness, networking, and alliance formation within the government aristocratic cabal in Kenya.

The dubious intersection among the judicial officers, police, and citizens give this type of corruption a remarkable outlook. It was observed that police do form alliance with judicial officers to execute corrupt deals. Corruption among police officers manifests in “bribery and extortion, favoritism, kickbacks, misapplication of resources, deceptive practices, theft, and premeditated criminal activity.” While the ministry of public works is considered as second most corrupt institution in the country. The ministry handles construction and maintenance of roads, residential apartments, and public offices in the country. Corruption is so endemic in the ministry to the extent that every contract has to be inflated through alliance formation between public officials and contractors. Also, the citizens have to pay a bribe before public services could be offered (Anassi 2004, p. 24–43). In a similar direction, the former head of anticorruption agency in Kenya, John Githongo, the anticorruption Czar, exposed the various financial scandals that involve various political-colossi under the leadership of president Kibaki. It is believed that the pledged of John Githongo to expose all the politicians involved in the graft led to threatening of his life. This was eventually led to John Githongo exile in United Kingdom (Amundsen 2006). Hence, many public officials considered their position as what Bayert et al. (1999) terms as “meal ticket,” a situation whereby public office is exploited as an opportunity to accumulate personal wealth. There are numerous factors that ensuing lingering corruption in the country. These include institutional problem, which legalize every activity of the government in power without questioning. The state secrecy laws empower the incumbent regime to conceal government information from the governed (Akech 2011).

The Normalization of Politics of Stomach Infrastructure

The resurgence of politics of stomach infrastructure has been an antiquate one within Africa’s political ecology. It dated back to independence which manifests during regional electioneering campaign in Nigeria. The theoretical platform of stomach infrastructure is situated in political clientelism, considering the effectiveness of material benefits for political support, making it difficult for electorates in a fragile region like Africa to safeguard their vote. The typical system of informal political relationship between voters and political contestants is refers to clientelism. For clientelism to become an effective political strategy in an electoral competition, the political parties must incorporate a vast number of local political agents saddled with responsibility to provide information about voter’s political preferences so that they can provide material and monetary packages to local populace in order to get political advantage in electoral competition; linking political agents and the electorates (Schneider 2015). This has its origin in rural/kinship society, indicating “horizontal exchanges between equals from vertical exchanges between unequals” (Foster 1961). It targets the poor who have limited information and autonomy about political affairs. There is exchange of political support for material benefits. Mexico is regarded as a typical example of this model, with provision of material benefits such as “cash, caps, tee-shirts, pencils, lighters, dictionaries, bags of basic foodstuff, breakfasts, cactuses, fruits, vegetables, beer, washing machines, bags of cement, cardboard, sand, shovels, pickaxes, machetes, hoses, fertilizer, seeds, chickens, cows and sheep” (Schedler 2002). This informal interaction between the client and patron within the political space therefore remains a source of corruption (Gray and Whitfield 2014).

In Africa, the political patron sometimes refers to “godfather” more often than not commandeered the political computation at the national, State and grassroots levels. They capitalized on citizen’s destitution to achieve political interests, thus, provides opportunity for rotational power among the aristocratic political cabals (Kura and Marquette 2007). It is believed that politicians who adopt stomach infrastructure strategy, involving distribution of material packages habitually gains the prominent support of the people. The lexicalization of stomach infrastructure is rooted in poor governance system orchestrated by political comprador. ‘The reality remains that many Africans ‘are hungry with little or nothing to eat and any politician that looks after their nutritional wellbeing is an astute statesman, a humanitarian and a shrewd politician’ (George 2014).

In similar direction, politics of stomach infrastructure also legalized in Tanzania’s electoral act, inculcating what is termed as “Takrima” which means “Traditional Hospitality.” The clause allows every political contestant in the country to offer gifts such as clothes, money, food and building materials to the electorate during political campaign. This has been devised as a modus operandi and a stratagem of coaxing and entrapping citizens under the travesty of providing material benefits in exchange for vote by the deceitful politicians (Amundsen 2006). This principle was acknowledged that “you cannot lead hungry people” (Premium Times 2014). From similar point of view, Ojo (2014) argues that the trading of vote in exchange for material benefits becomes the order of the day, no matter how constructive are the manifestoes of political contestants, the fundamental consideration recurrently revolved around what the politicians can offer in preelection and during election. This belief is justified on a ground that, if the citizens do not get their democratic dividends during electioneering, they might not be able to have access to their political representative until the next election.

Shifting the Blame of Corruption: Political Class or the Citizens

Several attempts have been made to link the current challenge of corruption in Africa with the political leaders. Such assumption has not only witnessed the test of time, but redefined the political atmosphere in which politicians/citizen’s coalesce in fostering political corruption. Experience from country like Nigeria validates this hypothetical analysis that election cannot be won without providing money and some material packages for the electorates so that they can gain the political support of the people. This event does not only provide avenue for the politicians to look for illegitimate boulevard so that they can meet with the demand of the people whose aspiration is to get material needs. Having said that, it is important to observe that the money offered by the politicians in the pre and during election must be recurred back to the source where it was oozed.

In this milieu, electorates cannot be excluded from the league of political corruption in Africa. There are many occasions when politicians need to bear the burden of materials and monetary demands of political supporters, friends, and families. This takes inform of payment for children school fees, house rent, and assistance towards funeral. Consequently, some politicians have capitalized on the suffering of the masses to galvanize political supports. Thus, it can be argued that financial and material demands by the electorates have drawn politicians to engage in corruption (Gabriel 2015). The electorates prefer a political representative or government whose campaign strategies are tailored in line with provision of short-term material needs (The Sun Newspaper 2014). The prioritization of stomach infrastructure over social infrastructure therefore remains a platform for endemic poverty, corruption, underdevelopment, and democratic cruelty (Chazan 1992). Nevertheless, whatever rationalization that may be presented for the humdrum demands by the electorates from political contestants, it is essential to note that this democratic prototype remains an aberration for ideal democratic reality, and has sustained deteriorating social infrastructural development in Africa. Therefore, the two actors – political elites and the citizens cannot be rooted out from the web of political corruption in Africa, having examined their involvement in monetization of politics and adoption of stomach infrastructural policy which remains a substantial challenge in accomplishing sustainable infrastructural development in Africa.

Concluding Remarks

In comparison, the nature of corruption in African emerging democracies, including Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Africa dwells within a holistic paradigm and has demonstrated in the bureaucratic system, cultural posture of the people, and political institution. Therefore, it can be demonstrated that, the trend of corruption in Africa journeyed through analogous familiarity. The nature and stereotype of corruption in Africa showcases political patronage and cronies system, applicable in the various African states. However, whatever justification that might be used as a propeller of corruption in Africa, it is important to perceive corruption in the continent as a by-product of other “structural forces” such as “class formation on state power and public resources in the context of post-colonial underdevelopment” (Szeftel 2000, p. 429–430). It can therefore be diametrically demonstrated as “criminalization of the State” which is termed as “the routinization, at the very heart of political and governmental institutions and circuits, of practices whose criminal nature is patent” (Bayart et al. 1999, p. 66). It is perceived as “asymmetrical reciprocity” and institutional “patrimonialism” between the State and the governed which has led to “instrumentalization of disorder” in Africa’s socio-political affairs (Chabal and Daloz 1999).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Sunday Ojo
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Public and International AffairsVirginia International UniversityVirginiaUSA