Since the 1990s, the global North's dominant understandings of corruption and underdevelopment in the
global South have been inextricably linked, and combating corruption has become an international norm.
This project explores the discourse around corruption: how corruption is understood as an inherent
“problem” of the global South, particularly Africa, and how it is understood as a severe obstacle to
modernity, good governance and development. By analyzing the recent anti-corruption activities of three
international organizations, the Organization on Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the
World Bank, and the United Nations (UN), this project specifically focuses on the dominant discourse that
corruption is a hindrance to development and a cause of underdevelopment.
Results reveal that all three organizations and their anti-corruption activities subscribe to the dominant,
neocolonial framework of understanding the causes of and solutions for corruption - namely, the
understanding that corruption is an African 'problem' that must be 'solved' using Western understandings
of modernity, progress and development. Furthermore, these international organizations coordinate anticorruption
activities from the perspective of multinational corporations, viewing MNCs as a solution to the
problem despite the fact that MNCs are usually key participants in bribery and other forms of corruption
across international borders. Thus, despite corruption‟s prevalence in the global North, it is primarily
understood as a problem of the global South, and the international anti-corruption movement is framed,
organized, and coordinated in the global North to be ultimately imposed upon the global South.
In conclusion, the paper suggests that instead of viewing corruption in such a neocolonial way - as
merely an African 'problem' that must be solved by the global North „s remedies - the anti-corruption
movement must nuance its reductionist assumptions about corruption in Africa. More specifically, it must
be understood that corruption has varying understandings and meanings depending on the unique
political, social, economic and historical contexts of various African societies. As well, corruption may not
necessarily be a hindrance to development, nor is 'combating corruption' necessarily the best solution for
development and good governance in Africa.
Additional contributor: Raymond Duvall (faculty mentor)
Mohammed Nur, Lolla.
Corrupting Africa: International Organizations and the 'Problem' of Corruption in Africa.
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