Friday, August 14, 2009

Service delivery and corruption in East Africa

On 1st August 2009 I was travelling to Tanzania Arusha and I found a long queue at Entebbe, in Uganda and the conveyor belt was not working. Luggage was being carried physically by some artisans and surprisingly there was electricity. Uganda’s corruption is not because of lack of legal or institutional framework but rather whether it has been applied to ensure quality service delivery. Implementation has and is still a dream and clearly there is no will to use the existing infrastructure to cause change.

At Jommo Kenyatta airport in Kenya, water was not running in the toilets on 1st August and 14th August. It is a huge airport compared to others in the region of East Africa. This applies also to the Kenyan Economy. Somehow Kenya looks superb at macro level and one can consider it as a developed economy that does not run… i.e. the pipeline for service delivery is dry despite a well developed infrastructure that is meant to support it. The disparity between the haves and have nots is huge and evident. One can explain this by the level of violence in case of elections where some citizens would be seen ‘enjoying’ destruction of property. As I write Kenya Airways was on strike last weekend, representing airline regional corruption confusion. What a tragedy! I was affected and I ended up together with others using a minibus to Malaba boarder at a huge cost since it was a Sunday.

In Tanzania at Kirimanjaro airport we were 'not' informed that our suit cases were left behind by Precision Airlines. The tragedy was that there was no explanation for over an hour that luggage was ‘missing in action’. Many passengers waited on a working conveyor belt that was tunning round and round without luggage. It therefore seems that corruption in TZ is defined by air supply ie Big contracts like the purchase of Electricity has had endorsements even in the highest office but service delivery is missing. The airline is named ‘Precision’ which implies that it would be what TZ seems to look like – a precise nation where it looks all nice but service delivery very slow and in some cases missing!I was visiting a training centre in Arusha (TCDC) near Usa river, and my original image of it was that it was in the middle of town with storied buildings. But I was wrong- it has a ‘forest of buildings and in a forested area- it is more beautiful than I had originally thought. Inside the rooms I found a small alabaster box in a corner and when I checked I found in condoms-to be precise four.

The message on them was written in Swahili. It is very important to note for a non Swahili that the words do not make sense even to a literate non Swahili reader.But in a way a condom has been demystified for all to understand. You don't have to read the language on it to know its use. But corruption has remained mysterious to the extent that its measure or indicators are as confusing as the number of agencies that try to measure it. Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index, index, Global Integrity, World Bank indicators, TI's afro- barometer sometimes contradict with one another. In future I will analyse these contradictions... But like a condom corruption is known through the way it manifests itself. The tragedy of failure to measure corruption is that our countries are like very sick patients who cannot access a proper cure or dosage because the extent of infection remains a mysterious….

On a lighter note other than the misinformation by Kenya airways staff on flights and failure to accommodate passengers affected by the strike, I was elated when I heard on a microphone some one announcing a lost and found laptop. When I left my wallet at the check point within the airport with some money, somebody came looking for me and the money was intact. This implies to me that as nationals we can do far better in terms of promoting values that encourage good governance. The ball is in our court, we can say no to corruption.

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