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African leaders urged to curb rampant corruption and inequality.

posted 8 Jul 2011, 06:39 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 8 Jul 2011, 06:58 ]

Rampant corruption across Africa is fast causing inequality and could spark youth protests even bigger than those seen in uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, experts say.

Leading activists gathering for an annual lecture on graft warned on Thursday (July 07) that rampant corruption across Sub-Saharan Africa, which is causing widespread inequality, could spark protests similar to those witnessed in the Arab world.

Speaking at a lecture titled: 'Corruption: A thief in broad daylight' in Lagos, John Githongo, Kenya's former anti-corruption chief, often referred to as the "whistle blower" for his efforts to expose graft in the east African nation's government, said African leaders have to act to avert an "impending catastrophe".

"Where we have growth but we have deepening inequality and those contradictions are causing volatility, some countries will collapse, we will have violence - this is coming in the next 15 years. It is worsened by externalities that are hitting us now; the price of food , the price of fuel, that is causing all kinds of confusion. Number three, we have a massive youth bulge across Africa, in Kenya 78.4 percent of the population is below the age of 34, about… almost approaching 60 percent below the age of 18, 80 percent of them work in the informal sector, not in the formal sector," he said.

Githongo caused laughter in the lecture hall when he pointed out that corruption in Nigeria like the rest of Africa followed tribal or ethnic lines, where those in leadership determined whose turn it was to "eat".

"All these laws and institutions, and codes of conduct... the real deal, (is that if) someone is from the north, him and his gang they eat… and then you sit quietly if you are from the south, you sit quietly… you wait, because your turn to eat is also coming," said Githongo.

Nigeria's ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) has had an agreement to rotate the presidency every eight years between the country's north and south as a way of appeasing both sides.

Transparency international rates Nigeria at 138 out 180 of the world's most corrupt countries.

Meanwhile, experts at a business round table gathering on the same day shared Githongo's sentiments.

Onno Rhul, the World Bank country director for Nigeria said public discontent over corruption had the potential to blow up to much more intense levels than those seen in uprisings in North Africa, where 'people power' unseated leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and ignited war in Libya to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.

"Nigeria has more people under 30 than the entire populations of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya combined. These are scary numbers. The need to seize the moment is not a luxury, the need seize the moment is essential for the survival of the nation and its future," he said.

Newly elected president Goodluck Jonathan, presently assembling his government, has vowed support for the country's youth and to move Nigeria forward.

However, he has warned Nigerians to brace for tougher decisions on the country's economy.