Bribery: cost of doing business
NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies, Nanyang Business School,
Nanyang Technology University, Singapore
Purpose –The purpose of this paper is to examine the implications of foreign bribery and perceptions that
bribery is just a cost of doing business in Africa in light of recent reports and developments in the global
attempt to curb bribery and corruption.
Design/methodology/approach –The research relied on primary data from anti-corruption legislation,
surveys and monitoring reports and secondary data from publicly available information, journal articles and
media reports to analyse recent developments in the ght against corruption with a special focus on Africa.
Findings –The research ndings and analysis suggest that foreign bribery, which is illegal but largely
carried out with impunity and perceived as a just a cost of doing business in Africa, has heavy costs on
developing nations and on corporations and individuals that are prosecuted. Although much has been done to
curb corruption, it seems active enforcement takes place in only a limited number of countries. There is still the
need for enhanced enforcement by nations, increased societal awareness of effective measures against
corruption and improved corporate compliance and responsibility.
Originality/value –The paper contributes practical insights into improvements and lapses in the ght
against foreign bribery and corruption. Using recent and relevant analysis, the paper revisits the resilience of
bribery and corruption in spite of increased anti-corruption actions and the need for multiple and varied
measures. The information provided will be useful for governments, corporations and civil society in the ght
against corruption, which requires constant multilateral action and examination.
Keywords Enforcement, Corruption, Anti-Corruption laws, Business risks in Africa,
Cost of corruption, Foreign bribery
Paper type Research paper
Recent news reports that British American Tobacco (BAT) bribed government ofcials in
several African countries to undermine the United Nation’s global anti-smoking treaty
(Owen, 2015) has once again brought the issue of bribery by multinational corporations
(MNCs) and the risks of doing business in Africa to the limelight. The BAT allegation is by
no means the only one concerning foreign bribery by MNCs.
Bribery is commonly dened as the promise, offer or giving of money or other pecuniary
or non-pecuniary advantage to inuence a public ofcial in the execution of an ofcial duty.
Foreign bribery involves bribery of foreign public ofcials to obtain or retain business in
international business transactions.
The BAT allegation primarily concerns whistle blower and former employee Paul
Hopkins, who worked for BAT in Kenya and shared multiple secret documents with the
BBC Investigative programme, Panorama. On the programme, Hopkins said that he was
not surprised by the sort of things he did for BAT in Africa, including bribery, because
it was explained to him that “in Africa that’s the cost of doing business”, although he
acknowledged it was “quite shocking in this environment”, referring to the West (Bilton,
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Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.24 No. 1, 2017
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