Prior Appreciation

Last night I watched another episode of Ali Mazuri’s The Africans documentary series on the TV at James and Pauline’s house. A fascinating series, I wish I could have seen all the episodes. Last night he was talking about the search for correct behaviour in Africa: religious, legal and moral issues concerning correct behaviour seen from the perspective of the three major influences on the continent: indigenous belief systems, Islam and Christianity.

One section really appealed to me and James: Ali appeared in a village, clutching a chicken.
“If I sacrefice this chicken to God, just before praying for a good harvest”, he said, “Am I bribing God?”

He went on to explain that, in many indigenous African cultures, if he gave a gift of a chicken to the chief of his tribe just before asking for permission to graze or collect fruits somewhere (I cant remember exactly what), this would not be seen as corruption but as paying proper respect to the chief. It’s not a bribe but prior appreciation for the service he’s expecting to get.

At this point there was a commercial break, which is just as well as James and I were laughing loudly at the expression “Prior Appreciation” which seemed, at this point, to be a euphemism for ‘bribe’.

After the break, Ali was back, still clutching his chicken, but this time in a city, in front of a bank.
“What if I give this chicken to my bank manager, just before asking for an overdraft?”, he said, (or words to that effect. Appologies to Ali Mazuri for misquoting him). “Sometimes it’s hard to see where prior appreciation stops and bribary starts”.

I find this very insightful. Corruption is not an absolute, there are cultural aspects to it. Prior appreciation is a separate concept from bribary, although there may be times when the two overlap. On the way home I thought of the times I have written “Thanks in advance” at the end of a letter or email asking for assistance. Prior appreciation is, in general, not appropriate in, for example, Kenya’s legal system, government or businesses. But the reason for this is that those institutions have been inherited from the British colonial times. In Britian appreciation normally comes after (like tipping), and corruption finds other ways to surface.

2 Comments

  1. dee-zed Says:

    I think corruption here has a whole additional layer of subtlety that makes it very difficult to see the links. But it’s undoubtedly tied up with the family connections, the ‘correct’ school and university, club etc.. I don’t think there’s always an expectation that there will be an appreciation at the same time (whether prior- or post-) but I think people who receive some kind of benefit are then expected to ‘play the game’ and when they are in a similar position of power to ensure that positions and other benefits go to ‘the right sort’. So the exclusive club is maintained, appreciation is shown, but without any act that would be considered bribery.

    This of course doesn’t apply to the New Labour party. They are entirely comfortable with a prior appreciation to party coffers, shortly followed by honours/contract/job/legislation etc. :rolleyes:

  2. tygger Says:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/storyofafrica/index_section1.shtml

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