“Economic Fraud in Africa” – Dr Jörg Wiegratz, School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds.
There is evidence that economic fraud has, in recent years, become routine activity in the economies of both high- and low-income countries. Many business sectors in today’s global economy are rife with economic crime. In this talk Dr Jörg Wiegratz argues that that there is a close link between neoliberalism, the major reform programme of our times, and the rise in fraud in so many countries across the world.
Accordingly, the current age of fraud is an outcome of not only the political and economic but also moral transformations that have taken place in societies reshaped by neoliberalism. More specifically, neoliberal policies, reforms, ideas, social relations and practices have engendered a type of sociocultural change which is facilitating widespread fraud. In other words, particular values, morals and standards of behaviour rendered dominant by neoliberalism are encouraging the proliferation of fraud.
Jörg’s work has investigated the moral worlds of fraud for years and shows very clearly that contemporary fraud is not the outcome of just a few ‘bad apples’.
In this talk he combines this general analysis with a more specific discussion of the case of Uganda. He traces the relationship between neoliberal reform, moral-economic change and fraud in this key exemplars of neoliberalism in Africa. This discussion is based on his recent book, titled Neoliberal Moral Economy: Capitalism, Socio-Cultural Change and Fraud in Uganda.
Uganda offers an important case of investigation for three reasons: the high level of foreign intervention by donors, aid agencies, international organisations, NGOs and corporations that have tried to produce the first fully-fledged market society in Africa there; the country’s reputation as having adopted neoliberal reforms most extensively, and the intensification of fraud in many sectors of the economy since the early 2000s.
The talk does two things: first, it explores the rise and operation of the neoliberal moral economy and its world of hard and fraudulent practices. It analyses especially the moral-economic character of agricultural produce markets in eastern Uganda, and thereby the moral climate of a market society in motion.
It shows that neoliberal moral restructuring is a highly political, contested and conflict-ridden process, predominantly works via recalibrating the political-economic structure of a country, and deeply affects how people think and go about earning a living and treat others with whom they do business. Second, it offers more general reflections about the relationship between capitalism and fraud and in so doing offers insights and lessons for elsewhere in the Global South and North, including the UK.