Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|May 14, 2021|4 Minutes|In Editor's Desk

Editor’s Desk

Why corruption isn’t funny.

It is one of the oldest jokes in Africa and it’s not funny.

It involves two late presidents and goes something like this: President Daniel Arap Moi, of Kenya, goes to visit President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

One day, the two presidents are walking by a river near Harare when they come across a spanking new bridge stretching across the water.

“See that?” says Mugabe patting his pocket as he turns to Moi, “Twenty per cent!”

A few weeks later, Mugabe visits Moi in Kenya and the two presidents visit another river.

“See that bridge?” says Moi.

“I can’t see anything,” replies Mugabe.

“100 per cent!!” replies Moi patting his pocket with a smile.

Now this outrageous false and concocted tale serves to make a very real and painful point that corruption is throttling the life out of the hope of a better life for many Africans.

Cynical journalists the length-and-breadth of the continent delight in telling this story; yet, I found, among those who laugh loudest are poor people who bear the brunt of no bridges, no roads, no schools and no hospitals because of looted public money.

How many millions looted across Africa, and around the world, could have saved a child’s life or educated them into becoming a life-saving doctor?

“Corruption is paid by the poor,” says Pope Francis.

I often think of this subject whenever I see the plush flats owned by former government officials and politicians from Africa own in rich parts of London that most rich people can’t afford. How did a public salary pay for this? Answer: it couldn’t – go figure.

The poor people at the sharp end of corruption know that those more powerful than they are going to take what is not theirs – even then, as the above fable tells us; for every act of corruption there is a bigger one waiting to happen. I often think their bitter laughter about how their political leaders are on the take is merely a way of living with it.

For honest, hard-working, entrepreneurs, corruption is about as welcome as a plague of locusts in an orchard. It adds costs and increases uncertainty; it eats at the very root of the integrity and rectitude that a good entrepreneur should hold close to his or her heart.

“Corruption is a cancer that eats away at a citizen’s faith in democracy, diminishes the instinct for innovation and creativity,” says the current leader of the free world President Joe Biden. Those last three words should run an entrepreneur’s blood cold in this fast moving, tech-led, world they operate in.

What can be done about corruption? Well, Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa has shown the way. He uses one of the shortest words in the English language when there is a hint of corruption: no.

Sure, you can say, it is easy for people like Masiyiwa with their massive economic clout to say no. But if everyone said no the world of the entrepreneur would be a better place for those who work hard and a poorer place for those who merely hold their hands out for a bribe.  Hasten the day.