Ethical Perspectives of Bribery in Africa

In assessing the ethical nature of bribery in Africa, the understanding of various perceptions of corruption is critical. In this context, corruption may be perceived according to structural, social-normative and organizational-normative perspectives. The structural aspect relates to whether corruption is a domestic issue of the countries involved or it is a global phenomenon. Accordingly, Brown and Cloke (283-284) argue that corruption, even for the practices that appear to be constrained to the domestic front, are in reality an antecedent of international structures such as those of the aid-providing agencies and international NGOs. Additionally, the structural perspective argues that the perception of corrupt activities could also be a result of labeling some forms to be more significant than others (Brown and Cloke 284).

Secondly, corruption may be perceived from a social-normative perspective, by identification of a social norm that it either promotes or impedes (Dion 241).  In such cases, corruption may for instance be assessed from the norm of honesty and the importance that various societies place on such a norm. In the case of systemic corruption, a majority of the residents may be accustomed to the practice of bribery viewing dishonest practices as an acceptable norm, thus the practice may not constitute an immoral behavior (Dion 241). In the third instance, corruption may be perceived in accordance with the norms defined by an organization. Such norms may be implied from the lack of procedures defining ethical behavior, organization-wide encouragement of practices that further business interests irrespective of their moral or ethical perceptions, and unit-based practices that encourage corrupt practices (Dion 242).  Such perspectives indicate that the ethical nature of bribery could differ widely.

Ethical perspective of bribery in Africa may first be considered in terms of the moral perspective. According to this perspective, any form of corruption is wrong since “it denies the moral code” (Dion 242). Forsyth reinforcing this perception noted that the actions that an individual engages in ought to be consistent with the moral principles since such actions would generally result into the most beneficial outcomes to the population concerned (qtd. in (Dion 244).  Such a perspective is reinforced in The Tire Dealer case study. The entrepreneur, Omar, for instance rejects the advice of his employees to engage in bribery citing the need to maintain honesty in his business practices.  Such argument supports the social-normative perspective of corruption, where the morality of an act is judged by its promotion or deterrence of a particular norm. Despite Omar’s sense of honesty as a virtue, the systemic corruption activities in the country – Uganda – have disoriented his employees from perceiving bribing to better business patronage as a moral evil.

A second aspect via which ethical perspective of bribery in Africa may be evaluated is its economic and political costs. This antagonist perspective considers bribery and other forms of corruption to be a wrong action due to their deleterious effects on such measures (Dion 243).  In terms of economic cost, bribery is for instance associated with increasing costs for business, encouraging illegal and unethical practices, impeding competition and directing resources to unplanned uses (Sanyal and Guvenli 287).  A second example of economic cost of bribery can be exemplified with respect to taxation. By offering bribes to the tax officials, businesses and high-ranking individuals could evade taxation thus resulting into lowered income for the government (Gyimah-Brempong 190). Such low-income levels negatively affect the provision of services and hence increase the income inequalities in the community. Such effects are ultimately antagonistic to the clamor for economic growth. On the political front, bribery is argued to impede democratic processes since it leads to impaired access to policy-makers and subverts effective decision-making processes in the government (Baughn et al. 16;TI 33-35). By evading taxation and other rates, the rich are availed massive resources that they can employ in consolidating their political power (Gyimah-Brempong 190). Such an environment could result into individuals devoid of leadership skills controlling governance issues for decades thus curtailing the achievement of democratic processes as the means for electing individuals to  decision-making positions.

A third perspective through which ethical perspective of bribery in Africa may be considered is the case of political and economic benefits that could arise from the practice – a revisionist perspective (Dion 243). Such a perspective could be exemplified where bribery involves the provision of the bribes to low ranking officers in the public. Since low ranking individuals could be earning lower incomes, their receiving bribes may spur their increased expenditure thus spurring economic activity via enhanced demand. Conversely, the offering of bribes to high-ranking officials mainly leads to adverse economic outcomes. Firstly, this results from the perspective that such officers would be more inclined to stuff their proceeds from bribery in foreign countries to minimize the risk of being detected, which carries a substantially high cost. Accordingly, the bribery amounts reduce the amount of finances available to the entity to finance its FDI in the country and reverts these to banks in foreign places that can use such funds to finance businesses in their host-country. High-ranking officers also could require high amounts as bribes due to the amount of risk involved. Due to the colossal amounts they demand of firms, organizations could find the bribe amounts an impediment to their developing effective activities in the market, thus avoid such a market altogether. Since high-ranking officers have a higher access to the decision-making processes, which business entities would be more interested in gaining access to, the overall effect of bribing government officers is likely to be a cost rather than a benefit to the economy.

Fourthly, bribery could be considered on a positive note as a way through which entities participate in bringing about development in countries where such a social phenomenon is encouraged – a pragmatist perspective (Dion 243). In this respect, bribery may become a source of economic benefit where there exist unnecessarily cumbersome procedures to effect an activity. Where bribery speeds such an activity it could lead to effectiveness and minimize losses brought about by harsh bureaucratic procedures. From the Tire Dealer case study, this can be exemplified by the long wait for customers to patronize his shop despite its quality offers. When enterprises lack adequate finances to pay for expenditures at the initial years, such costs could lead to the collapse of the entity before its gaining a promotion from word of mouth. A possible benefit of bribery in this respect would thus be reducing the length of time activities and approvals take place thus allowing them to avoid costs associated with such delays. Go to conclusion here.

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