Image credit: Ubuntu Hope.

#RecruitCorruptionFighters (Part 3)

__How I resisted Charles Taylor of Liberia.

Many people think the problem of corruption is so big that nothing they personally do can ever make any real difference. This is not correct. You and I as individuals are the most important players in stopping corruption. One day you will be amazed how many people have joined us.

Today let me share a story that a few of you have heard before. I want you to try to figure out at least one lesson for you as an entrepreneur, and as someone who cares about the future of this entire continent.

In 2001 when we started setting up Econet Wireless Nigeria (now Airtel), one of the key requirements for our business was to find a big building where we could put our sophisticated switching equipment. It takes months to prepare such a highly secure building and costs millions. We were under pressure with a strict roll-out deadline. (If we missed it, we would lose the license for which we paid $285m!)

Due to the nature of our business we had to own the building, so we hired an estate agent. When he finally told me he had found the perfect one, I personally went to see it, and agreed. We were all thrilled. It was quite a unique property.

“The government of Nigeria has ordered all embassies to relocate from Lagos to Abuja,” our agent had told me. “The Liberian government has one of the largest properties in the city, and they are selling.”

Our people quickly reached agreement on price. It was a lot of money. They were in a hurry to sell so they could “buy a new building in Abuja” (so they claimed).

Such a large payment required approval by me and other directors of our company.

As I looked at the documents and agreements for signature, I noticed that the payment bank account was in Switzerland and had no name on it…

“Why is this not a Liberian government account in Monrovia?” I asked.

“The Ambassador says that is where they want the money sent.”

“Tell him I want a Government of Liberia bank account number and also a Cabinet Minute authorising the sale.”

“Sir, why are you being so difficult?! It really has nothing to do with us. The Ambassador has a letter from the President and Finance Minister authorising the sale.”

A few days later, the Ambassador of Liberia himself asked to see me. At first he threatened to sell the building to someone else if we did not move quickly.

“Come on man,” I insisted. “It’s easier for you to send me the Ministry of Finance account details than to start a new sale.”

Next he turned on the charm: “I spoke to the President, and he said he is willing to speak to you on the phone to clear any misunderstanding.”

“To be honest, we don’t need to waste the President’s time. Just give us the account details.”

Next the Ambassador came and said the President was sending his brother all the way to Nigeria to see me. He even invited me to travel to Liberia as a guest of the President, thinking that would impress me.

Everyone was frustrated. My people were frustrated. The Ambassador was frustrated. I just refused to budge. The deal collapsed. We ended up with a much smaller, less ideal building.

About two years after that, Charles Taylor was forced to hand over power to his vice president after a civil war that killed tens of thousands of Liberians. Eventually a Special Court sentenced him to 50 years in prison for war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law.

This was one of the most brutal dictators in history, who plundered his country. I was not going to allow him to rob his people, through me!

From the moment I saw those papers, I knew immediately that Charles Taylor wanted to sell the building and pocket the money himself. As I like to say, “My mother said I was born at night, but it was not last night!”

For me, I’m always concerned, first and foremost, about ensuring that my own staff and I do the right thing, then we tell others who share the same values. This is how we slowly eradicate the disease called corruption.

Now I am really keen to hear YOUR stories. Keep it short, and please do not put names if it creates a problem for you. I want to hear from #CorruptionFighters. What big or small things have you done to take a stand against corruption? What can others learn from you?

We want to #BreakTheSilence and show the world that we are taking a stand. Your stories of courage and truth will inspire others. Let’s #RecruitCorruptionFighters everywhere!

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito…”

To be continued. . .

 

by 14 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

14 thoughts on “#RecruitCorruptionFighters (Part 3)

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.

    You might have heard that a few big-name international companies (highly respected for decades) have gotten into some real hot water in recent years, seen to be associated with corrupt activities in some countries. Due diligence and saying “no” is not just the job of the compliance department! This Anti-Bribery and Corruption (“ABC”) Benchmarking Report 2017 may be of interest to some of you: https://www.bentley.edu/files/2017/06/29/Kroll_2017_ABC_Report_Final_Web_0.pdf

    Reply
  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.

    Even when you are under huge pressure, make sure you read the fine print in all the documents and agreements. Don’t just expect and depend on your legal team to do it for you. It is your signature and good name. Whatever you do, don’t let anyone try to rush you, flatter you or charm you into a decision. (People sometimes forget that corruption always involves at least two parties — the one who pays the money and the one who pockets it! Both are guilty).

    Reply
  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.

    When we turn a blind eye to corruption we are exposing millions of people to suffering and even death. This is how we must look at corruption: it kills. What you do personally matters.

    Reply
  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Louisa writes,

    I went to submit my company name and get registered in one of the multinationals as a supplier. I had previously gotten the listed requirements and I had put all in place. I got to the office and submitted the form and every other attached paperwork. On my way out, one of the staff approached me and walked with me , he said Its good I have met all the requirements but there’s a very important one I am yet to meet. I asked him which? He said, “officer must chop requirement, na workshop. Where person work na it him sef dey chop”. I told him I can’t do it. He said OK then I haven’t started yet. Needless to say, I didn’t get any job from the company.

    My reply,
    This is great!
    I sit on many international boards, and let me tell you that when this happens with an international company, go on their website and look for the Whistleblower email, and drop them an email, stating what happened!

    Reply
  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Reflection:
    We cannot call ourselves people of “faith”, and yet succumb to demands for bribery and corruption in our communities.
    Taking a stand against corruption must be an “irrefutable proof” to yourself and others that you have faith.
    The day we as believers take a hold of this truth, corruption will take its biggest blow!
    I BELIEVE my destiny cannot be determined or affected by a corrupt person or situation.
    It’s a “faith” thing!

    Taking a stand against corruption will set you free, in ways you cannot imagine.

    #Judgement begins in the House Of God.

    Reply
  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Mark Mutale writes,

    Sir I have absolutely refused to pay or receive bribes.It has irked several people and several deals have passed.As a result business has been slower and we are going through tough times.Please sir does it get better even though one insists on doing business the right way.I am so discouraged.

    My reply,
    You have already won!
    Never see yourself as a victim in this battle against corruption.
    At no time during my five year battle in Zimbabwe, or my 10 year battle in Nigeria, did I ever see myself as a victim. I KNEW the truth!

    Even if I lose a deal and see someone else who compromised appear to do well, I have total peace:
    I don’t know anyone in the world, who denied me anything because of my stand who is better off today. I guess in some way God is using me to speak to you:
    “Don’t fret. There is no temptation which you shall endure from which there is no escape.”
    #JustStand!

    Reply
  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Tochukwu writes,

    I love you sir,it has being my wish to fight corruption but Nigeria as headquarter of corruption is a dangerous place to flight corruption!
    I was in federal government prison for 14 day for not buying the idea of giving bribe to get access for what rightly belong to me;I was glad I didn’t!

    My reply,

    I salute you #CorruptionFighter!
    It is people like you who will liberate our countries from corruption.
    This is what paying the Price to end corruption is all about.
    Your fathers tell you about their generation’s heroism in fighting colonialism. You will one day have to account to your own children over the fight to end Corruption!

    Reply
  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Turihohabwe writes,

    The other day I was behind on my tax schedule when the collector advised that if I could give him some ‘chai'(tea) he would write me a clearance form. Something was not right! I remembered your fights. I knew this was my turning point. I refused to his dismay and opted to negotiate a time to pay in full with penalties. When he came to collect the balance he asked. “Young where did you say you come from?”
    I smiled.

    My reply,
    I love this!
    #CorruptionFighters are about to become the most feared people in Africa!

    Reply
  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Reflection:
    We talk a lot about corruption in our countries particularly in the lead up to elections!

    What always stuns me after the elections is the near total absence of any real laws being enacted to strengthen the fight against corruption!
    Does it not amaze you that most countries do not have specific laws on the issue of bribery and corruption. What legislation often exists is either old, or obsolete.
    Do you know any specific legislation recently enacted to fight corruption that caught your attention?

    In the countries where they make the most noise about corruption, you also see the least CONVICTIONS for bribery and corruption!

    It’s not enough to arrest someone with big publicity, it’s about seeing people actually go to jail, and serve real sentences.
    Who was the last “big fish” to be tried, convicted and actually JAILED in your country, in the last 12 months?

    Reply
  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Reflection:
    #Fight for transparency in public accounts:

    #1. Personally, I believe every single organisation that is funded by taxpayer money must be required to post audited accounts on a website and in local newspapers every six months.
    Banks are already required to do this in some countries. It should be mandatory for any organisation that uses public funds!
    This calls for legislation.

    If audited accounts are not published within 60 days, the entire board, CEO, and CFO should be required to resign automatically!

    All state-owned companies should be required to present accounts formally to public accounts committees in parliament. Public Accounts Committees that carry out this work, should have technical advisors (who are Chartered Accountants).

    #2. State-owned companies (parastatal) board appointments should be done publicly:
    -vacancies should be published,
    -recruitments should be done publicly. In other words people should apply, and interviewed publicly.

    -selections should go through parliamentary committees where the public can listen to interviews.

    #3. State-owned companies and any other state-funded institutions should hold an AGM for public stakeholders just like a publicly-listed company.
    The minister, chairman, and board members would have to attend and answer questions from members of the public and parliament alike in an open forum.

    Let me tell you, if a country required of its largest state-owned companies compliance to transparency and accountability required of a listed company, so much would change overnight!
    #Corruption would be cut in half,
    #Competence would increase dramatically,
    #Waste of public funds would reduced dramatically.

    Just a BIG HINT, Mr President [in any African country].

    Reply
  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Reflection:
    Any policymaker [President, Minister, legislator] who is serious about ending corruption must always focus on policy design aimed at ending what we call “opportunities of arbitrage”.
    For instance, if there is “shortage” of foreign exchange in your country, and the policymaker responds by introducing controls which are not transparent and market related, there is an “arbitrage opportunity” created for people who have access to power, related to its distribution and availability.
    This is first-year university economics!

    “Controls” address symptoms, but not the disease. And when left in place without a proper solution they lead to extraordinary levels of arbitrage opportunity, which then spread to other areas of the economy and social life, as corruption!

    Let me give you an example:
    Kenya does not have currency controls of any kind, and does not control the exchange rates.
    There is no arbitrage involving currency and exchange rates in Kenya.
    That is not to say there are no other problems in Kenya, but they don’t have currency-related arbitrage of the kind you see in Nigeria and other countries. Yet Kenya does not have a guaranteed flow of foreign exchange from oil revenues.

    It would make sense for monetary authorities in these countries to spend time together, don’t you think?

    If you wake up tomorrow morning and put controls on importation of cars, you will soon have corruption involving motor cars!

    Much of the corruption we see always involves something which requires “approval” or “control”:
    If you put a police road block at every street corner, and slow down traffic flow, it is called an “arbitrage opportunity.” Corruption follows like night follows day!

    An attempt to ban alcohol in the United States led to the creation of the Mafia!
    There is a “little mafia” wherever you create unreasonable controls!

    #CorruptionFighters at policy level must focus on eliminating “points of potential arbitrage”.

    # You can tell the level of corruption in a country by the “arbitrage opportunities in policy design”!

    # Deregulation is a key tool in the fight against corruption, even though it would put some control freaks out of work!

    Do you know any controls and rules that are being used as arbitrage opportunities, under the guise of good order?
    Please share and let’s have a discussion.

    Reply
  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Phiri writes,

    never mind the names are as they are. I got sick went to clinic was referred to our biggest hospital. After going through numerous appointments and tests. The Dr recommended that I needed urgent operation but first I must go for scanning for certainty.
    Hell started there. The man I found there told me to come almost 2 months as the day of scanning. Desperation and fear got into me. As I was about to leave he called me and told me words that till today I fear. ” boss people die this is not the disease to jock about” if you could pay me just a little something all this will be done in no time. And he said the amount. I felt tempted and thought about my kids. But I looked around many sick people with desperation who needed urgent attention.
    To cut a long story short I left straight went to our At I corruption. He was called still he told me as soon as I find the cash the offer stands.
    All was arranged the worst part was for me to undress before a stranger who pretended to be my wife and yet the officer from the Anti corruption. In short the guy was arrested. They had to wait till I was able to stand in court. And the guy was convicted and sentenced. While the case was in court I almost lost my life simply because of the delay of operation. Because some days past to just make arrangements that even the officers felt it was not ok to delay. But I said death is in the hands of God but this may help many people in future and it did. Am not very ok but thank God am alive. Many thanks to our Anti Corruption Commotion who work under difficult situation they did their job very well.

    My reply,
    What amazing faith!
    You are a true #CorruptionFighter!
    Just imagine what would happen if more people across Africa were willing to #PayThePrice to end corruption in the manner you have done.
    Wow!
    I’m in awe of you!

    Reply
  13. Stephen Kamugasa

    Hear, hear, Mr Masiyiwa! I have no story to tell except to say, ‘there is nothing the right fighter against corruption cannot do.’ It is our business as Africans, everyone of us, to fight corruption at all times.

    Reply

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