The recently released Bribe Payers index 2011 positioned China and Russia, two countries with increasing global presence, at the bottom of the table as the most likely to pay bribes. Both countries respectively, had 0.0 and 0.2  change in bribe payers index over the three years 2008-2011. Russian companies are becoming increasingly present in the international oil and gas sector and China is investing heavily in infrastructure and mining, particularly in Africa.

According to the report, “the countries at the receiving end of Chinese and Russian investment feel the effects not just of the financial flows, but also of the associated business operations and activities and bribery and corruption are likely to have a substantial impact on the societies in which they operate and on the ability of companies to compete fairly in these markets”.

Going down the memory lane, Nigeria witnessed an advent of open campaign against corruption when General Obasanjo’s administration was sworn into government in 1999.  During this regime, the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 was introduced, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was established and Nigeria began to attract foreign investors.  That era also saw China’s increasing presence in Nigeria, and elsewhere in Africa.

According to Pat Utomi , the increasing engagement with China raised mixed reactions for example; public officials and businessmen raised some areas of concern like:

–          The Chinese labour conditions which some referred to as “slave-like” do not meet African standards and the Chinese have a distinct advantage by paying “slave -wages” for dangerous work that most Nigerians will not undertake. An example of the “slave-like” standard was the September 2002 fire at a Chinese-owned factory in Lagos in which at least 37 Nigerians were trapped after a factory foreman reportedly locked the building doors.

–          The Chinese collectivist tradition and its low-level commitment to human dignity and individual freedom may encourage human rights abuses by the Nigerian government.

–          Even though the Chinese policy of aid without strings attached was welcomed they expressed concern that some of the support for grand infrastructure development that had been agreed to, such as railway modernization, had not been implemented.

–          The Illegal enterprise and criminal activity for example the open sale of contraband items led to the shutting down of a Chinatown in Lagos by custom men.

–          The businessmen believed the Nigerian government, during the Obasanjo years, courted the Chinese at the expense of local manufacturers by manipulating tariffs to encourage Chinese imports; and this led many Nigerians to accuse the Chinese of dumping cheap Chinese products onto local markets, stifling the competitiveness of domestic production.

Nigeria was advised to focus on how China’s engagement in Africa fits into the broader picture of international engagement, especially bearing in mind the impact of such bilateral trade growth on the Nigeria economic development.

Interestingly, one of Pat Utomi’s recommendations is that, “…Nigeria has an opportunity to diversify its development by balancing Western assistance with that of China but needs to better understand how each type of aid can be beneficial, and to what sectors, in order to implement a successful strategy. For instance, China’s experience as a more disciplined society has the potential to curb corruption in Nigeria (emphasis mine), while the United States’ commitment to human rights and transparency restrain an abuse of power”.

We are yet see the desired progress in the fight against corruption initiated by the then ruling Obasanjo’s administration, but judging from the aforementioned issues, I do not see China’s potential to curb corruption in Nigeria. Hence, I ask two questions: In what capacity is China a more disciplined society than Nigeria? How can a bribe payer curb a bribe taker?


Categories: Doing Business in Africa

Tags: , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: