WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Open Society Foundations convened an impressive group of civil society advocates to urge U.S. and African governments to take meaningful steps to improve transparency and accountability. Those efforts are critical to ensuring a stable future where prosperity is widely shared and sustained in Africa.
Open Society Foundations founder and chair George Soros was joined by the vice president of Liberia Joseph N. Boakai, U.S. deputy secretary of state Heather Higginbottom, philanthropist Mo Ibrahim, and leading civil society representatives from across the African continent. Participants called on the U.S. and African governments to guarantee space for civil society participation and prioritize efforts to combat poor governance and corruption.
“Civil society participation is fundamental to promote accountability and good governance in Africa. The United States and African governments must provide space for civil society to operate to ensure that Africa’s resources are used for the benefit of all people,” said Elias Issac, the program manager of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa’s office in Angola.
African governments have made firm commitments to improving governance and accountability, but the continent continues to lose billions of dollars to corruption and poor governance. One estimate suggests that more than $1 trillion in illicit financial flows were transferred out of Africa over the last 30 years. Since 2003, 34 African countries have acceded to the African Peer Review Mechanism, 35 countries have ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, and 23 have ratified the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance. These commitments are impressive. But they do not reflect how Africa’s public resources are being managed.
The lack of political will to implement existing mechanisms and advance reform inhibits meaningful participation of citizens, fuels corruption, and hinders development. Limited transparency and poor governance is too common within the extractive industries including oil, gas, and mining. Tax evasion, trade mispricing, and opaque budgeting processes further inhibit inclusive development.
Event participants argued that inclusive economic growth goes hand in hand with strengthening democracies and institutions. Space for a vibrant civil society is essential to strengthen democracy through enhanced citizen participation and monitoring.
“While African leaders are looking for the U.S. government and businesses to expand trade and investment in Africa, we too as African citizens are asking our governments show us what has been done to ensure that such monies are used to promote inclusive and sustainable development,” said Jeggan Gray-Johnson, advocacy officer with the Open Society Foundations’ Africa Regional Office in Johannesburg.
The objective of the U.S.–Africa Leaders Summit is to invest in the next generation in Africa. To ensure inclusive development with widespread opportunity and sustained growth, U.S. and African leaders must provide space for civil society organizations to operate, and they must ensure meaningful implementation of transparency and accountability efforts.
The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.