It’s time to play by a different (ethical) set of rules (Part 3)

It’s time to play by a different (ethical) set of rules (Part 3)

“We want you to be our local partner,” he began. “You are smart, and you have lots of friends in governments across Africa. When there’s a tender which interests us, we’ll call you and we can work on it together. We will pay you a 10% commission on every deal that we win together.”

The company he worked for was big and prestigious. It is one of the largest in Europe.

The gentleman talking to me was a director, and had traveled all the way to see me.

“What happens if your tender is not the lowest?” I asked quietly.

“Then you must do everything to make sure we (you and us) get it.”

He smiled.

“You want me to be a Commission Agent?”

“No, no,” he said, “our local partner.”

I could see I was making him uncomfortable.

“We make only the best equipment. This Chinese stuff is rubbish. Ours is the best, but you know it costs a little more, that is why we need someone like you with a little influence.”

I looked at him.

“You are looking for a Commission Agent. I don’t do that kind of business because it means that somewhere along the line I will be required to cut deals which are corrupt.”

His face turned red, then white as a sheet. Then he got up hurriedly and left my office.

He could hear me laughing loudly as he left.

“Commission Agents…” Know them for what they are.

There are some countries where all business is done through so-called Commission Agents. This is organised corruption.

Do not admire people who make money as “Commission Agents,” despite the conspicuous consumption that often follows their way of life. Commission Agents are not entrepreneurs. Also be wary about companies that simply want to use you as an agent and middleman. That is not entrepreneurship.

The business of “providing access” is one of the worst forms of corruption. Large international companies that have so called “local partners” whose role is simply to provide “access to the right people” are not innocent of corruption, even though their fancy lawyers might say otherwise.

Let’s play by a different set of rules! Let’s kick corruption and corrupt practices out of Africa.

Author:Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

7 Replies to “It’s time to play by a different (ethical) set of rules (Part 3)”

  1. Afterthought 1

    Festus Mogae, the former President of Botswana, is one of my favorite Heads of State, ever. When we won the license to set up a mobile network in his country in 1998, I never once had to go and see him throughout his term of office. I did not realise that he appreciated this until one day I was sitting at an international conference he was also attending. He then singled me out and said one of the nicest things: “You see this gentleman here? He runs one of the largest businesses in my country. When he comes he never asks for access to the VIP lounge, he never comes to see me. He does not go to see Ministers. He just does his business. I personally like that very much; it means our policies are working.”

  2. Afterthought 2

    We need to create policies that work for everybody, big and small, local and international. They must work for everybody in the same way, and in a transparent manner. Why should the “big guys” always go and see ministers and presidents about private sector business matters? These are the practices that create an impression that there’s corruption, sometimes even when it doesn’t actually exist.

  3. Afterthought 3.

    Commission Agents (CA) on public procurement (government tenders) help to oil a machinery that is at the heart of corruption. My own personal view is that Commission Agents on a public procurement tender should be strictly regulated, including but not limited to the following:

    -any CA must be registered under strict guidelines on how they conduct their businesses.

    -any tender should declare the CA used and the fees they were paid.

    -public officials should declare any conflict (in terms of relationships with an agent used on a tender).

    – when a public tender is awarded the results should be available on line, and include details of payments to Commission Agents.

    Companies that use Commission Agents to assist secure a public tender in a foreign country, should be required in their country to declare it.
    Whilst these measures and others will not necessarily end corruption they will send a strong and powerful message to those who engage in corruption.

  4. We have a challenge with my generation in Zimbabwe where the simple things like getting an ID, Drivers’ License, Job, winning a court case,An academic place, or anything that needs govt or quasi govt officials approvals.You just pay for them. See this is also slipping into the church where people shower the Man of God so they can get bigger posts. Are we really going to win this war?

  5. And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. Galatians 6:9 (Amplified).

  6. To Mr Masiyiwa

    I greet you in the name of the Lord.My name is Luckson from Gutu; Masvingo and currently in East London South Africa.Mr Masiyiwa as a descent and loyal citizen of your mother country l feel proud of you and would appreciate if one day be honoured to meet a great man like you in my lifetime.

    My desire and ambitions are to continue being loyal and faithful to God.l believe everything is possible. Sir; l have a story to share with and would appreciate if you can hear it. I grew up in a female headed family and l did better at school with 7 olevels and 9 points A level. It has been a dreem for me to study toward since 2005 but nothing materialised. At current lam 29 years ; not married and l am working for the little money in a construction company. My desire is to study on line for the logistics diploma but l am struggling to pay for 14000 a year due to lack of funds.The man of Lord by writing you it took me many nights and days thinking and waiting for things to turn around. I would be glad to get assistance from any person or organization that you know that might help me.It doesn’t matter for what terms as long as l get assistance.

    Should you wish to know much about me l have email address and a cell phone. My email is
    Phone 0027 740748353

    Yours faithfully

    Luckson Chera

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