By Mo Ibrahim
There's corruption at the top, and then there's corruption at the bottom. At the commanding heights of failed states, massive theft and fraud perpetrated consistently by elites diverts funding from social projects and scares off investors. This grand corruption, when combined with the discovery of natural resources, often leads to conflict as expectations rise and are dashed when a select few capture most of the benefits. Everyday petty corruption -- baksheesh to the border guards or cash to the ambulance driver -- ironically allows daily life to go on in countries where salaries are low and irregular. But over time, this too takes its toll on a society's moral fiber, undermining governance. The unaccountable, opaque nature of all corruption is irreconcilable with the principles of transparency and accountability -- the exact principles required for the creation of peaceful, stable, and prosperous societies.
Mo Ibrahim, founder of telecommunications firm Celtel, is chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which grants an annual prize for excellent leadership in Africa and compiles an annual index of African governance. Finding no suitable candidates last year, the foundation did not award the prize.
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