Bribery & Corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa: Genesis, Panacea & Implications for FCPA Compliance in the Region

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Of all the continents, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is said to be the most fascinating and promising; but she also poses the greatest challenges. Governments, multinational corporations and other business entities in the U.S., EU, China and the Middle East now see Africa as the 21st Century’s new land of opportunities. Approximately two years ago, millions of Americans welcomed the son of an African father and an American mother, President Barack Obama, to the White House, giving hope to the entire world, especially Africans and the nation states of SSA. As the missing link in the global economy, Africa now stands at the cornerstone of growth and opportunity. SSA countries have long generated some of the highest returns on deployed capital. With twenty percent (20%) of the world’s total landmass, a population of 900 million (14% of world total), and a galaxy of mineral resources, the continent has been appropriately dubbed a “sleeping beauty.”

Regional integration in SSA is coming into play in building blocks of an African economic community. Emerging from old African institutions are new institutions, such as the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), transforming into “work shops” from the old “talk shops,” and applying new and innovative solutions to old African problems. As former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew J. Young, observed, “Africa’s role in the 21st Century is increasingly more strategic as the U.S. seeks assurance of growing markets through the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and an assured secure supply of petroleum in the midst of Middle Eastern chaos.” Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also opined shortly before leaving office that: “Africa matters to America, by history and by choice. America has almost 35 million citizens of African descent, and more than 30,000 Africans are studying in the United States today. Last year, trade with Africa approached $30 billion and the United States is the Continent’s leading foreign investor.” And his successor Condoleeza Rice optimistically commented, “We see a continent of enormous promise, increasingly willing to tackle its own challenges to create a better life for Africans everywhere.”

A strong wind of socio-economic and political change is blowing across Africa. Durable and vibrant democracies are emerging across the continent helping to debunk the myth that Africa is unprofitable. Since 1990, more than 30 African countries have held free elections, and the overwhelming majority has launched economic reform programs. This climate of economic and political stability is attracting foreign investment and stimulating new domestic business enterprise. American enterprise is now beginning to see firsthand the enormous potential of Africa, the strength of its people and its boundless possibilities. The perception that Africa is one entire quagmire of poverty, inefficiency and instability is no longer tenable.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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