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Transforming Social Norms

A new generation of action promises to open up government contracting in Africa

Robert Hunja's picture
Dr. Flora Lubowa is a medical officer at the Magomeni Health Center. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Photo Arne Hoel

I have worked on public procurement and governance for most of my life. But I have never been more excited to finally have a solution at hand that has potential to change the legacy of opaqueness, fraud and lack of effectiveness in public contracting in many African countries.
 
Africa still need billions in investments to build infrastructure and provide quality services to its citizens, many of them vital: health care centers, food for school children, water services and road to help farmers market their produce. Investments as part of the Sustainable Development Goals in infrastructure alone carries a price tag nearly $100 billion a year. Unfortunately, like in many countries around the world, public contracting in Africa has been characterized by poor planning, corruption in picking contractors and suppliers and contracts are poorly managed.
 
But the good news is that this is changing. The series of blogs I’m kicking off will highlight the shifting of the norm towards open contracting in Africa.

How a professor started a campaign to fight everyday corruption in India

Alice Lloyd's picture
Also available in Spanish,  French and Arabic
Photo credit: 5th Pillar


An expatriate Indian physics professor, when traveling back home to India, found himself harassed by endless extortion demands. As a way to fight corruption by shaming the officials who ask for bribes, the professor created a fake currency bill: the zero-rupee note.

The notes are identical to Indian banknotes, but carry the slogan, "Eliminate corruption at all levels," and the pledge, "I promise to neither accept nor give bribe".

Vijay Anand, president of the non-governmental organization 5th Pillar, thought the idea could work on a larger scale. Initially, the NGO printed 25,000 zero-rupee notes and distributed them to students in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Since 2007, the NGO has distributed more than one million bills in five languages, covering 600-plus institutions. Volunteers hand them out near places where officials often solicit bribes, such as railway stations and government hospitals.