6. From self-interest to ethical leadership

We long to move from leadership and citizens characterised by dishonesty and corruption to being known for integrity and accountability. We know that we need to rethink the function and ethos of leadership across all tiers and that this will require a strong will and commitment across sectors – starting in the church.

Many parts of Africa struggle with corruption, from senior government leaders to everyday transactions. This removes large amounts of money from the system that was earmarked for life-transforming services such as education and healthcare. It is a barrier to economic development, frustrating the lives of ordinary citizens by slowing down business and creating barriers to essential services. It erodes trust and destroys relationships.

Over half of Africans think that corruption is getting worse in their country and that their government is not doing enough to tackle it. People living in poverty are twice as likely to pay a bribe as the wealthy.129 Being forced to pay bribes for essential services means that vulnerable families have less money for basic necessities, such as water, food and medicine.

But there is hope for change: more than half of citizens think that, despite the fear of retaliation, ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.130 An end to such self-interest requires a shift towards a holistic, values-based leadership approach.

Christ died to forgive our sin. When we repent of our corruption we are restored in our relationship with God and our relationship with ourselves. Holiness theology is a rich theological source (particularly from the East African revival) of teaching for citizens.

The greatest in the kingdom of God is the servant.

Churches are often trusted as moral, independent voices of truth and accountability within Africa. Our theology and moral teachings can underpin core leadership values and our discipleship work can help leaders put their values into action. There have been times when it has been enough to just speak truth to power,131 but that alone is usually not sufficient. We cannot just preach; we must also act.

There is much that needs to be done to expose corruption, and to challenge and advocate against illicit financial flows, extractive and exploitative trade deals and investments, and corporate tax evasion. These are the “hidden” corruptions that continue to drain resources from the continent. We propose strengthening accountability structures at all levels of society and building a culture of integrity, transparency and accountability in government and the private sector. This will move us towards the AU aspirations of good governance (3) and strong values and ethics (5), and the global goals of reducing inequality through ending discrimination (SDG 10) and seeing peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16).

Abundant ideas for ethical leadership

As first steps towards achieving this, we call on:

Churches and Christian leaders to lead by example through:

Repentance: Of past corruption and greed within church leadership.

Discipleship: Engaging and countering corrupt theologies of money and bad financial practice in the church. Implementing leadership programmes for church leaders, particularly young leaders, and engaging institutions to help them establish institutional discipleship processes. Practice: Modelling values-driven leadership at all levels and creating a culture of ethical practice, social contribution, non-discrimination and social impact. This should include signing up to ethical frameworks such as Unashamedly Ethical Commitments, the African Council for Accreditation and Accountability, and the Bench Marks Foundation principles for guidance and accountability.

Advocacy: For churches, governments, civil society and business to sign up to ethical frameworks. These accountability mechanisms are a key first step towards achieving good governance at all levels and limiting the ability of elite leaders from accumulating wealth at the expense of people living in poverty.

Governments to make payments by companies to governments public, as part of the companies’ annual reports, so people can hold them to account for how they used the money.

Governments and businesses to adopt open hiring and contracting practices to ensure transparency, including making documentation and data clearer and easier to analyse.

The AU to establish an independent AU Common Good Protectorate with the power to investigate and monitor all trade, aid, land leasing and resource concessions to ensure they are in the interests of the common good. There is currently nothing like this that goes beyond just stopping these illegal practices to actively ensuring that our systems are based on inclusion and shalom, and that the benefits reach those who need it most.