Famous American jazz musician Louis Armstrong toured Africa many times; visits that were often orchestrated by the US State Department to build ... relations between Washington and recently decolonised regions of Africa.
The ‘Africa rising’ moment was at its apogee. Celebrating the theme with a conference in Maputo on 29-30 May 2014, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) flew in Christine Lagarde, its managing director.
Sitting alongside representatives of Mozambique’s government, Lagarde declared: “The overall outlook for the continent is optimistic.”
Mozambique, she said, nodding towards her hosts, “epitomises this positive spirit”. She spoke of its rapid growth, its steps to reduce poverty and its sound economic management”. Less than two years later, relations between the IMF and Mozambique had crashed and Lagarde was accusing the government of “concealing corruption”.
As Lagarde was speaking in Maputo in 2014, the Mozambican government, with a couple of investment banks and an Abu Dhabi-based shipbuilder, was working on a tuna fisheries and maritime security scheme that has saddled the country with a crushing $2bn debt. This became known as the ‘tuna bond’ scandal. International investigators have concluded that the deals were overpriced by at least $800m and that $1.2bn has not been properly accounted for.
The Africa Report is taking an in-depth look at the Mozambique case because it highlights the crucial elements that are needed to make corrupt schemes like this work all over the African continent and beyond. The billions of dollars in loans in Mozambique could not have been accessed without greedy politicians in positions of authority, weak government institutions, ineffectual international financial bodies, banks willing to turn a blind eye in return for big profits and contractors crafting projects that focus more on commissions than creating functional companies, amongst others.
With French logistics billionaire Vincent Bolloré the subject of investigations in France for his business activities in Africa, the IMF battling with the Zambian government about the disclosure of its opaque debts, and the Italian trial against oil majors Shell and Eni for their dealings with the OPL 245 project in Nigeria due to restart in June, it is crucial for investigators, the IMF and reforming governments to understand the anatomy of corrupt deals (see box) in order to protect future generations from the mistakes of current leaders motivated by personal profit.