A divided America agrees on one thing: corruption is rampant. But what we’re fighting here in the U.S. pales in comparison to the everyday exploitation of people in developing nations. In Paraguay, for example, the poor pay more than 12 percent of their income in bribes. That number is even higher in other still-emerging countries.
An economic development expert and senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, Efosa Ojomo has seen firsthand the effects of such seemingly insurmountable daily struggles in his homeland Nigeria. There, it is a common occurrence that poverty, further fueled by an epidemic of bribes and stolen and extorted money by those in power, perpetuates fragility, discontent and violence. How can development ever happen while such corruption persists? And who would want to invest in a society that seems, at least on the surface, a terrible place to do business?
But corruption isn’t the problem, argues Ojomo, co-author of the acclaimed “Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty” (January 2019). In fact, conventional thinking about corruption and its relationship to development isn’t only wrong, it’s what is holding so many poor countries back.
A New Way of Thinking
As Ojomo explains in his powerful TED Talk — which has more than 1.4 million views since its October 4 debut and then was translated into 13 languages — most people believe that if you put good laws in place and enforce them well, economic development will increase and corruption will fall. But he argues that we have the equation backward: “Societies don’t develop because they’ve reduced corruption. They’re able to reduce corruption because they’re developed.”
Investments in innovation, specifically those that focus on scarcity, are critical to the cause, says Ojomo, who collaborated with Clayton Christensen to showcase this theory of economic development. His new thinking on how to eliminate corruption worldwide while creating long-term prosperity is a call to action for entrepreneurs, businesses and investors.
It’s also an offer of hope and optimism for the future.
For more from Efosa, listen to his episode of Minds Worth Meeting podcast: The Transformative Power of Market-Creating Innovations