BOOK REVIEW: African Union’s fight against corruption in Africa


A review of John Ikubaje’s book: ‘African Union’s Fight Against Corruption in Africa. Special Focus on Nigeria and Rwanda’.

The release of academic documentation of the efforts of the African Union in fighting corruption and promoting peace and development is quite germane, particularly as the African Union Peace and Security Council (APSC) marks its 20th anniversary of existence to refocus the continent on the intertwined relations of the anti-corruption drive and the pursuit of peace, security and development. What is more, drawing case studies from the different regions of East Africa (Rwanda) and West Africa (Nigeria) creates interesting contexts for comparison in terms of the challenges and successes of these efforts. This is because in the 2023 Transparency International’s corruption perception index, Rwanda ranked 49 out of 180 countries with a score of 53/100, while Nigeria ranked 145 with a score of 25/100. The text therefore details two scenarios: one of a fair anti-corruption context and another that is still riddled with challenges despite the efforts of the African Union to combat the menace within member states.

The normative foundational document for the AU’s anti-corruption work is the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AU-CPCC). It was adopted on July 11, 2003, and came into force on August 5, 2006. As a result of the foregoing, the then African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AU-ABC), now the African Union Advisory Board against Corruption, which comprises eleven members, was established. Article II of the AU-CPCC maintains that it was designed to help state parties prevent, detect, punish, and eradicate corruption in a collaborative manner through measures and actions that enhance transparency and accountability. This is in order to allow African citizens to enjoy economic, political, social, and cultural rights.


The broad scope of defining corrupt acts was outlined in Article IV, covering solicitation or acceptance, offering or granting any goods in exchange for an act or omission in carrying out both public and private functions, acts or omissions based on such inducements, diversion of public property for individual or private gains, illicit enrichment, and serving as accomplices in whatever capacity to the commission or concealment of the aforementioned acts. This broad conceptualization provided the framework for Ikubaje’s interventions in examining the historical context of the influence of AU’s anti-corruption interventions in Rwanda and Nigeria. 

In the first chapter, Ikubaje dwelt on the challenge of corruption, which has continued to hamper economic growth and peace initiatives on the continent. While maintaining that corruption is a global menace, he emphasized that it is more impactful in the poorest and most under-developed nations of the world. With Africa having a significant share of these nations, it is not surprising that it has been accorded the position of being the most corrupt continent on the globe. This supposition resulted in the AU Assembly’s declaration of the years 2015, 2018, and 2020 as designated periods to focus on addressing the challenges of underdevelopment and corruption, as well as silencing the guns. The author then situated the undermining impacts of corruption within the history, relevance, and efforts of the African Union, which established the AU Peace and Security Council (AU-PSC), the African Union Development Agency/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD), and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) to foster peace and development through good and democratic governance. However, most of its member states have been unable to achieve the goals of sustainable peace, economic prosperity, and development, largely due to the lack of political will to tackle corruption and ensure good governance. The chapter concluded by referencing the devastating cost of corruption in Africa to the tune of over $148 billion annually in 2010. This was documented by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and this huge loss was equal to a yearly budget of four Eastern African countries during the period.

The second chapter explored various textual conceptualizations of the term corruption, among which were the delimiting definition of the Bretton Woods institutions (IMF and World Bank) to public institutions, and the broader description of the acts of corruption as inclusive of private sector engagements by the UN Convention against Corruption (UN-CAC). Ikubaje also teased out two theories of corruption: the collective action theory – where societal culture rationalizes corruption to legitimize it, and the institutional theory- where the structural and operational qualities of institutions validate corrupt practices. He then focused on Transparency International’s corruption perception index in establishing that Africa was the lowest scoring region in 2020, with an average score of 32 as influenced by both internal and external factors. This validated UNECA’s postulation that corruption completes the major tripartite challenges in Africa, alongside poverty and unemployment.


With a focus on Nigeria and Rwanda, he highlighted the efforts of the former in tackling corruption to include the creation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) among others, with associated legislations to aid the functioning of these institutions. According to him, Nigeria’s approaches have been through efforts at prevention, promotion of popular participation, behavioural re-orientation, enforcement and sanctions, and recovery and management.

Rwanda, which ranks as one of the least corrupt countries on the continent, has displayed the political will to enforce strict anti-corruption laws and transparency in public procurement and recruitment in its post-genocide era. The efforts have entailed public re-orientation on social normative standards, criminalization of certain behaviors, and effective sanctions of culpable persons and institutions. The chapter also draws a causal relation between corruption and armed conflicts by establishing that the latter are sometimes initiated and funded by proceeds from the former, while also describing linkages between corruption, money laundering, illicit financial flows, and underdevelopment on the continent.

Front and back pages of the book
Front and back pages of the book

It concludes with the detailed description of certain AU transformative architectures to include the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), the African Development Architecture (ADA), and the African Governance Architecture (AGA) as proactive mechanisms for combating corruption in line with the AU-CPCC. Certain challenges have, however, undermined the AU’s efforts including claims to national sovereignty by member states, delimitation of regional anti-corruption agencies to advisory capacity, and socio-political instability that continues to undermine peace and development across the regions.

The third chapter focuses on other African Union’s mechanisms against corruption. These were fully discussed in this chapter and they include the AU Agenda 2063, the Constitutive Act of the African Union (2000), and the Protocol establishing the Peace and Security Council (2002), which underscore the fact that anti-corruption initiatives are the sine-qua-non for development on the continent. Article 3 of the Constitutive Act mandates the AU to foster integrative socio-political and cultural development through collaborative approaches among member states. As part of its financing strategy which includes domestic resource mobilization, Agenda 2063 prioritizes the mitigation of illicit financial flows and fight against corruption as areas for policy and reform. 


In his 2024 Africa Day Speech, H. E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, who chairs the African Union Commission, noted that ‘the legitimate aspirations of inclusive and shared prosperity in a peaceful integrated Africa’ have been outlined in Agenda 2063. As a 50year plan for integrative and durable socio-political development, Agenda 2063 thus targets seven goals to include building prosperity, political unity, good governance, sustainable peace, human capital development, sustainable international partnerships, and indigenous shared-values. The 2002 protocol resulted in the establishment of the AU Security Council to foster peace and security through conflict prevention and management. While these documents have robust provisions with lofty ideas on how to promote good governance with fight against corruption , peace, and development, Ikubaje maintains that there is a need for the transformation of AU into a supra-continental institution, as well as sufficient funding to implement the provisions of the above programs and mechanisms to overcome the challenges of corruption, insecurity and underdevelopment.

The fourth chapter delved into specific challenges and success stories of the anti-corruption efforts of the AU. One notable challenge is political corruption as exemplified in the unconstitutional change of government through military coup d’états, which has been on the rise in recent times, especially within the West African Corridor. The AU has thus been developing policies and mechanisms for good governance initiatives within its member states. 

In Rwanda, political stability through the practice of democracy, transparency in procurement practices, and good governance have helped in reducing corruption since it transitioned from the ethnic strife between the Hutus and the Tutsis. The documented efforts include the removal of corrupt leaders, decentralization of anti-corruption processes to empower the private sector and local communities, as well as training and monitoring of anti-corruption activities as facilitated by the Rwanda Ombudsman’s Office, created after the ratification of the AU-CPCC. The country also sanitized its law enforcement agencies with the police having a functional anti-corruption directorate. However, the country is still challenged by citizens’ apathy towards its anti-corruption drive with a low level of corruption-related complaints. This has been worsened by the evolution of new methods for corrupt practices.

In Nigeria, there has been enactment of several laws including the 2004 Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, the 2004 Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2006 Advance Fee Fraud and other related offenses Act and the 2013 Nigeria’s Terrorism (Prevention) Act. These legislations have led to the creation of aforementioned anti-corruption agencies such as the ICPC, EFCC and TUGAR. However, the AU-CPCC has not been fully integrated into these efforts with the agencies still subject to political machinations, while selective anti-corruption remains a major issue in the country.


The fifth chapter is a documentation of the impacts of corruption in Nigeria and Rwanda. In Nigeria, it has adversely affected economic growth, with ripple effects of insufficient funding of public educational institutions. There has also been a lack of transparency in public procurement involving major infrastructural projects, with a high rate of embezzlement, double payments and non-implementation of projects that have already been funded and recorded in the public sector. Similarly, the country has been riddled by insecurity and conflict. There have been arms mobilisation by agitators, partly due to years of social exclusion. This has been characterized by over a decade of terrorism in the Northeast, Banditry in the Northwest, Militancy in the South-South and ethnic-based violence in the Northcentral region. Poor funding and remuneration have also affected the nation’s security architecture with poorly equipped personnel across the security agencies mostly unable to respond to the firepower of militias. 

In Rwanda, Ikubaje argues that political and economic corruption were the root causes of the genocide that destabilized the country, where at least 85% of the population lived below the poverty level. In recent times, corruption also undermined the Girinka program, which was designed to eradicate poverty and malnutrition; while some public officeholders have also reportedly mismanaged state resources within the Rwanda Agriculture Board and Ministry of Local Governance. 


In the final chapter, the author recommends that member states of the African Union should take primary responsibility for anti-corruption initiatives within their nations, while the AU anti-corruption institutions should support these efforts in their roles. He also recommended that the definition of corruption should be expanded to include crimes against humanity on the continent, while civil society organisations must be well involved in anti-corruption initiatives. While advocating for the operationalization of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights and the creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court, Ikubaje concludes by advocating for synergy within the operations of key stakeholders within the anti-corruption sectors in AU member states.

Ikubaje who holds PhD in Peace, Governance and Development from the United Nations University in Costa Rica, draws from years of experience during professional engagements with the African Union Advisory Board against Corruption and the African Union Commission in producing an in-depth study of the contexts of corruption as practised, and the limitations of anti-corruption efforts in Africa. The comparative approach reveals that irrespective of global rankings, corruption remains a challenge to development, peace, and security across the continent. It is thus a major barrier to achieving the set goals of Agenda 2063.


His propositions of a functional supply-side driven anti-corruption architecture and citizen-driven anticorruption implementation and crusades are also very relevant to ridding the continent of corrupt practices. This invaluable text is thus recommended to policymakers, students, academics, civil society actors, researchers, and the general public who are interested in Africa’s security, peace and development and the historical dynamics of Africa’s continental anti-corruption initiatives and the national variance of these efforts. 

Ọláyọkù Philip Adémọ́lá, PhD, is an IFRA-Nigeria Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan

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