President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi inaugurated on Wednesday the first African Anti-Corruption Forum (AACF) in Sharm El-Sheikh, with more than 200 senior officials from 48 African countries and nine international organisations attending.
AACF’s main objective is to encourage African countries to adopt policies, programmes and work plans that contribute to the eradication of corruption.
It also aims, according to the opening speeches given on Wednesday, to establish a shared knowledge base between different regions of the continent on the risks of corruption and its severe negative effect on development.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Kuwait are guests of honour at the two-day AACF.
“Organising the forum in Egypt comes from our belief in the importance of strengthening cooperation and exchanging experiences with African countries in the field of combating corruption,” El-Sisi said in his speech during the opening session of the event on Wednesday.
El-Sisi is chairing the African Union for 2019.
“Corruption is a lesion gnawing at the economics of the states,” El-Sisi said, stressing the importance of combating it and strengthening cooperation in this regard.
Loss of resources due to corruption is one of the main reasons for the decline in economic and social fundamentals in many African countries, he said.
The African continent loses $148 billion yearly -- representing about 25 percent of Africa's average GDP -- through various corrupt activities, according to a UN report issued last year.
A documentary film, Africa is on the Road to Development, was screened Wednesday in the opening session, which showed Egypt and Africa’s efforts to eliminate corruption.
The first session of the event reviewed the anti-corruption national efforts of a number of African countries – including Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Niger, Nigeria, Ghana and Angola – in implementing continental and international commitments.
The second session discussed the role of anti-corruption efforts and activities in Africa's development and how to sustain the resources of the continent to serve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Sessions of the AACF's second day
The third session, scheduled to be held Thursday, is due to present the continental vision of and efforts to fight corruption, and tackle the role of media, civil society and the private sector.
The fourth session will tackle how to develop human resources capacities in various aspects of combating corruption on the African continent. It will highlight the importance of training and technical assistance for anti-corruption officers, and how to take advantage of modern technology in fighting corruption (e.g. financial intelligence, mechanisation and digital transformation as mechanisms of administrative and financial governance).
The fifth and final session will cover the means to support multilateral and bilateral governmental coordination to combat corruption between African countries. It will also look at organised crime like human and organ trafficking.
“Organising this forum highlights the Egyptian role in fighting corruption locally, under the supervision of the Administrative Control Authority,” Ambassador Ashraf Rashed, head of Egypt’s National Governance Council (NGC), told Ahram Online.
Rashed, who is heading the conference’s third session, said that the AACF also emphasises Egypt's keenness in transferring its expertise and cooperation in this field with other African countries.
The ambassador said the Administrative Control Authority in Egypt plays an important role in the prevention and combating corruption at the national level, within the framework of a comprehensive strategy classified by the United Nations as one of the best practices in the prevention of corruption.
The AACF is being organised by the Administrative Control Authority in cooperation with the justice, foreign affairs and interior ministries, the Central Auditing Organisation, the public prosecution, the anti-money laundering unit and the Illegal Gains Authority.
Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly, Speaker of the House of Representatives Ali Abdel-Aal, Minister of Defence Mohamed Zaki, Minister of Investment Sahar Nasr, Minister of Planning Hala El-Saeed are attending the forum, among other officials.
“The Administrative Control Authority’s call to organise the AACF aims mainly at presenting what is happening at the local level to prevent and combat corruption, and also to review the other African countries’ stories of success,” Rashed said.
“It also aims to strengthen coordination and cooperation and exchange of experiences among African countries to jointly address this phenomenon that harms societies,” said the ambassador.
Sessions of the AACF's second day
Egypt has come a long way in the field of combating corruption with its various forms in the past few years.
El-Sisi stated during the AACF that Egypt has keenly conducted research, studies and polls so as to identify the causes of corruption and developing accurate indexes to measure its levels.
Adding to that, he says, the necessary legislation has been passed so as to combat corruption in all its forms.
Egypt also established the National Coordinating Committee for Combating Corruption in 2014 and the National Anti-Corruption Academy in 2017. The latter body was activated by the president during the Africa Forum held in December 2018 in Sharm El-Sheikh.
Both entities are parts of the Administrative Control Authority.
During the announcement of its activation in 2018, El-Sisi also announced 250 training grants to African cadres working in the anti-corruption field.
The president said on Wednesday that “Egypt is planning to increase training programmes offered by the academy to supervisory and control authorities in Africa as part of its efforts to back anti-corruption measures in the continent.”
Moreover, Egypt’s second phase in its national strategy for fighting corruption was launched last year. The first phase of the national strategy for fighting corruption, launched by El-Sisi, commenced in 2014.
The launching of the national strategy’s second phase coincided with the international anti-corruption day on 9 December. It aims to fight corruption through setting in place specific objectives, policies, programmes and mechanisms to control corruption and create a culture opposed to corruption.
Regarding African measures in fighting corruption and illegal transactions, Rashed said: “On 11 July 2003, the AU Summit endorsed the African Union Convention on Prevention and Combating Corruption, reflecting the will and the political commitment of leaders of African countries to fight corruption.”
Africa declared 11 July to be African Anti-Corruption Day, to be celebrated every year.
“So far, the number of African countries that have ratified the Convention has reached 40,” Rashed said.
The African Union Convention on Prevention and Combating Corruption is considered the fundamental legal framework for combating corruption in Africa.
The convention came into force in 2006 after being ratified by 15 African countries.
On the sidelines of the Addis Ababa Summit in January 2017, El-Sisi signed the convention and it was subsequently ratified by Egypt in July of the same year.
“The main objective of the convention is to develop mechanisms to prevent, detect and criminalize corruption, recover money and assets seized by such crimes and apply good governance principles, as governance is an important tool to prevent corruption,” Rashed said.
In this regard, the chairman of Egypt's Administrative Control Authority Sherif Saif Eddin believes that due to being a huge obstacle for the continent’s economic growth “corruption cannot be eliminated without a strong will”.
Saif Eddin said that AACF’s main goal is “providing a platform for African countries to meet on a regular basis to exchange information and experiences as well as reaching recommendations and mechanisms by which we will be able to combat corruption”.
President of the Association of African Anti-Corruption Authorities Emmanuel Ollita Ondongo stated that the problems that are resulted from corruption badly affect the morale of the Africans.
“Corruption leads to negative consequences such as impoverishment of peoples and the bad exploitation of the youth that results in their immigration,” he said.
The effect on the Africans is enormous, Ondongo said, because the corruption problems “come hand in hand with the religious problems and the conflicts that are being erupted in the continent”.
“Such problems undermine the usage of the assets in Africa,” Ondongo said.
We, he says, have to admit our responsibilities because combating corruption in itself faces major problems.
Ondongo elaborated that one of the the problem is that “we have existed anti-corruption regulations and legislations but are not implemented”.
Saif Eddin said, from his side, said that “we will meet through this platform in a regular basis to review the implementation of the recommendations and mechanisms reached during the AACF”.