National Whistleblower Center at World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings
NWC Intern Karina Coltun Schneider, right, poses for a picture with African Union Ambassador Chihombori-Quao, center, and a fellow civil society organization delegate, left.

Youth worldwide are speaking out against corruption. At the 2018 World Bank Group and IMF Civil Society Policy Forum, the African Union Ambassador to the United States and delegates from over 100 civil society organizations representing over 40 countries discussed anti-corruption and ethics programs engaging youth in advocacy for good governance. These programs encourage young adults to hold their representatives accountable for accepting bribes from international companies.

The Center for Social Awareness, Advocacy, and Ethics, Inc. (CSAAEINC), a civil society organization, runs four programs equipping African youth with leadership skills and ethics training to fight corruption. Godswill Agbagwa, the Founder and President CSAAEINC, said, “young people need to understand [that their representatives] can’t take bribes from international organizations against their own nation.”

U.S. laws with international jurisdiction can work in tandem with these goals. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), penalizes corporate bribery of foreign officials, and covers both U.S. and non-U.S. companies. Jurisdiction is established if a company issues American Depository Receipts (ADRs). A great number of multinational corporations, should they, for example, bribe a public official to exploit natural resources, can be held liable under the FCPA.

Moreover, whistleblower protections under the FCPA apply to African youth. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which enforces the FCPA, rewards whistleblowers that expose such cases. As FCPA provisions against bribery can apply outside of the U.S., so do whistleblower protections and rewards. Young African whistleblowers can reveal corporate bribes of government officials and collect a percentage, even up to a millions of dollars, in rewards.

Bribery is a pervasive problem across African nations. The African Union Ambassador to the United States, Arikana Chihombori Quao, stated, “companies are stealing out of Africa in daylight by mining illegally.” In fact, multinational corporations in South Africa gain over $562 million dollars yearly through illegal mining exports. In the case of Och-Ziff America, the company paid $412 million in criminal and civil penalties under the FCPA for bribing top-level government officials in Chad, Niger, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for mineral mining rights

Even with legal mining rights, African nations actually lose profits due to the exploitative nature of their contracts. According to the United Nations Commission for Africa, net profits for the top 40 mining companies grew by 156% in 2010 while profits for African governments grew by only 60%. Bribery only worsens this issue, luring government officials into bad contracts.

Corruption impacts economic opportunities and social wellbeing for youth. Ambassador Chihombori Quao calls for youth to advocate for transparency in government relations with multinational companies. Only with further accountability and a reduction in bribery can African governments truly consider the needs of their citizens.

Anti-corruption education programs such as CSAAEINC’s also prepare youth for careers in public service. Director Godswill Agbagwa further argues that youth should actively seek ethics training while pursing political ambitions, stating, “youth believe corruption is the enemy of shared prosperity and take upon themselves to fight for a better Africa.”

As 41% of the African population is under 15 years old, CSAAEINC seeks to engage African youth in efforts to end transnational bribery as the next generation of leaders comes to power. Therefore, organizations like CSAAEINC provide opportunities for African youth to join campaigns for oversight and anti-corruption, while also encouraging these youth to reevaluate their own perceptions on bribery as future leaders.

National Whistleblower Center (NWC) advocates for international anti-corruption reform through stronger whistleblower protections. Whistleblower information about bribery is crucial for such reform. In addition, FCPA rewards have been shown to incentivize good whistleblower tips. In 2017, the U.S government recovered over $3.7 billion through its civil fraud program. Of this amount, whistleblowers were directly responsible for the detection and reporting of over $3.4 billion, under qui tam provisions. It is clear that whistleblower protections are paramount in efforts expose multinational companies that bribe African government officials in violation of the FCPA.

Bribery undermines the core value of democratic society: representation. Through illegal promises of cash payments and rewards to government officials, only elite and corporate interests are represented in public policy. This sidelines the interests of constituents. With a legal jurisdiction to enforce the FCPA globally, the United States should not allow its own companies to engage in acts of bribery. Rather the U.S. must uphold standards of good governance through ethical government contracts, holding American companies and American stockholder-owned companies liable for bribing foreign ministers.

NWC supports efforts by the World Bank, the IMF, African Union, CSAAEINC, and other civil society organizations that seek to engage youth in anti-corruption and government reform. Whistleblowers, no matter what age, should have the means to safely and confidentially expose corrupt acts like bribery. To further these anti-corruption efforts, we encourage the African Union and African nations to increase awareness of FCPA whistleblower protections and the possibility of a substantial reward.

Those who know about FCPA violations can report to an attorney here.