Transparency and Accountability in Africa

01 Dec 2012
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Summary

How important are transparency and accountability for Africa? How do African countries perform in this area? How can transparency and accountability be strengthened in African countries? This paper attempts to address these key questions. In this paper the definition of transparency follows that used by Transparency International, which states “transparency is about shedding light on rules, plans, processes and actions. It is knowing why, how, what, and how much.

 

Transparency ensures that public officials, civil servants, managers, board members and businessmen act visibly and understandably, and report on their activities. And it means that the general public can hold them to account. It is the surest way of guarding against corruption, and helps increase trust in the people and institutions on which our futures depend”1.  In brief, transparency is the degree of openness with which public affairs are managed. Corruption describes “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”.

 

Corruption can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs. The related term accountability is used to refer to the extent to which it is possible to identify and hold public officials to account for their actions. In simple terms transparency and accountability are related and go together. Openness determines answerability and answerability reinforces openness. The absence of transparency and accountability provide fertile ground for corruption to thrive. If corruption is seen as a disease, then transparency and accountability are important cures.

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