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The cultural roots of corruption : an ethical investigation with particular reference to nepotism.

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Since the demise of colonialism, corruption in Africa has gone from an alarming proportion to a critical stage. There is hardly any sector of the economy that is not ravaged by this hydra headed-monster. The most obvious of these practices is nepotism which is rooted in the culture of the people. This cultural dimension creates some confusion on how to understand nepotism in relation to corruption in Africa. Thus, while some people denounce the high rate of corruption in Africa as it concerns nepotism, there are those who think they have justifiable reasons to engage in the practice. Still, there are others, who engage in the practice without the consciousness of the moral implication. Those who think that there is nothing wrong with nepotism anchor their argument on the fact that it is embedded in the culture of the people. For instance, many civil servants are involved in corruption because when they come into office, they are obliged by sense of family responsibilities to use their relatives who are not qualified against the qualified applicants who are not related to them, to build up public offices. Hence, while most civil servants are aware of the rules against nepotism, they still go ahead to indulge in the practice because they believe that such rules are contrary to African culture and therefore should not be obeyed. When these three positions are placed side by side, a central problem arises and can be formulated as follows: is there a cultural dimension to the problem of corruption, especially nepotism in Africa? This thesis therefore is a rigorous analysis of the causes, effects and possible solutions to the problem of corruption with special reference to nepotism in Africa. The thesis stated particularly that African cultural practices of gift-giving and the extended family system encourage corruption particularly in the form of nepotism. It therefore uses African ethical theories of Ubuntu or African communalism, alongside cultural relativism and moderate partialism or relationality to argue that corruption in the form of nepotism is the problem of Africa and that to rid Africa of corruption and put her solidly on the path of sustainable development, merit rather than nepotism should guide public transactions. Critical and historical analyses are used for the methodology.


Doctor of Philosophy in Ethics. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2017.


Cultural., Corruption., Nepotism., Ethics.