How corruption is hurting small Ghanaian businesses

How corruption is hurting small Ghanaian businesses

Corruption. It’s endemic to Ghana like malaria, nosy relatives and bad driving. Tune in to any morning radio show and it’s highly likely you’ll stumble upon a passionate discussion of corruption in everyday life and in high places alike. Obtaining a Driver Licence or Passport, or filing a police report for a car insurance claim can be hard, frustrating or impossible, depending on how much you’re willing to pay. Corruption in Ghana is unavoidable, like a swarm of houseflies that appears out of nowhere when you sit outside to enjoy a plate of mango.

The cost of such widespread corruption is, understandably, often considered solely in cash terms: that extra 600 cedis it costs to get a company registered in weeks, not months; that furtive exchange of three crisp one hundred US dollar bills in order to get an expedited passport renewal; the tens of thousands slipped to finders, fixers and facilitators in bidding wars for government contracts; and most sickeningly, the millions and millions earmarked for infrastructure and development that end up in private pockets.

The real impact of corruption on small and medium-sized businesses is however far more insidious than a hundred paid here and a thousand extorted there. Picture your average SME as a maize farm cultivated by a tenant farmer. Corruption makes it easy for the landowner to extract additional rent from the farmer using empty threats backed by money and political connections. Corruption empowers petty thieves to steal the farmer’s harvest, since the profit from any sales likely dwarfs whatever bribe is required to keep the police from doing anything about it.

But corruption – through the diversion of funds meant for agricultural development – also impedes the farmer’s access to the sort of modern farming technology that would yield a hardier, more fruitful crop to begin with. Corruption creates the sort of poverty that pushes people to resort to crop theft as a means of survival. It nurtures an environment where police are unashamed to turn a blind eye to crime for a paltry sum.

Similarly, in the world of SMEs, corruption not only drains businesses of their hard-earned revenues, but also places a ceiling on how high and a limit on how fast a fledgling business grows and makes money in the first place. Take your average Ghanaian company and the acceptance of mediocrity within its ranks – decades of corruption did that. When bribes and connections are rewarded but excellence is not, it feels like wasted effort to go above and beyond to produce high-quality goods and services.

Worse still, corruption slows and even reverses the natural trend towards technological improvement and greater efficiency, since they make it more difficult for misappropriation of resources to go undetected. I’m xxxxxxxxx

Corruption is a falling tide that leaves all boats in the harbor exposed to the jagged rocks below. It blurs the line between right and wrong, between ambition and pure avarice and between business savvy and flat-out crookedness. It costs businesses money that they did not even know they could earn by


By: Ekua Nkyekyer/

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