The University of Ghana’s College of Humanities organised the maiden edition of the intercollege lecture series for the semester at the Great Hall on Thursday, 4th of October, 2017. The lecture addressed the topic “Corruption as a ‘Wicked Problem’ in Africa: Culture, Values and the Paradox of the Collective”. The speaker was Professor Justice Nyigmah Bawole, Head of Department, Public Administration & Health Services Management, UGBS.
In his welcoming speech, the Dean of UGBS, Professor Joshua Yindenaba Abor expressed great interest in the topic with regard to how corruption affects finance, politics and everyday activities. The Dean also introduced the Chair for the occasion, Professor Samuel Agyei-Mensah, Provost, College of Humanities, University of Ghana.
The Chair, Professor Samuel Agyei-Mensah in his introductory remarks reiterated how interesting the topic is. He pointed out the expectations for the lecture, asking the speaker to carefully address the menace of corruption in Africa.
Speaking on the topic, “Corruption as a ‘Wicked Problem’ in Africa: Culture, Values and the Paradox of the Collective”, Professor Bawole noted how the topic was conceived, which he said was as a result of a question a student asked about what constitutes corruption. “The lecture, is a collection of initial thoughts and does not necessarily posit solutions or recommendations”, he observed. He continued by saying that corruption is a bother in Africa due to the high levels of the act and how it affects the distribution of resources. A World Bank study in 2017 suggests that businesses and individuals pay an estimated amount of $1.5 trillion in bribes every year and this reflects on the growth and developmental plans of such countries.
Professor Bawole defined corruption as the violation of established norms in the exercise of trusted power with the intent for gain. He said it is considered as a wicked problem due to the difficulty of dealing with its persistence and intensity. Corruption, he also pointed out, demands more than just slogan shouting as it is rooted in who we are and our very being. Corruption lives in a certain culture and culture is the set of principles that guide the way of life. Africa can be described as a collectivist society that looks after the needs of the many instead of the singular. Professor Bawole on the ideal of Ubuntu, defined it as the thinking that posits that a person is who they are because of another or the society. Ubuntu, therefore mirrors the collectivism nature of the African culture. “However, if Africa is both Ubuntu and a collectivist society, then how can such a society be corrupt?” he asked.
He pointed out some explanations given for corruption, one of them being our very nature itself. The African act of gift giving, creation of personal relations and networking make us ripe for corruption. The unification of the African people by colonial masters is also another reason for the act of corruption. The act of unification creates multiple collectivism, where the individual has to decide whether to be loyal to the lower states such as family, tribes, town or loyal to the bigger picture, the country.
Professor Bawole answered questions from the audience gathered. The event was attended by students, faculty and some staff.
Ending his speech, Professor Bawole encouraged all present to continue with the conversation around corruption and develop their own solutions.
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