Laurence Cockcroft began his working career in 1966 as an economist in the Ministry of Rural Development in newly independent Zambia. He was introduced to the issues of small farm development, then a priority for the government of Kenneth Kaunda, which remain unresolved to this day. In 1970 was offered a post in Tanzania to continue work in agricultural development and rural credit For the next four years he continued to work in this sector with assignments in Ghana, Cameroun and Nigeria but became dissatisfied with the relationship between African governments and the World Bank which had been characterised by unrealistic expectations on both sides, and where politics and corruption were clearly distorting projects and their impact.
Companies, Politics and History
In 1977 Cockcroft joined Booker PLC a British company which worked in agribusiness in many parts of the the tropical world and managed its consultancy business. In 1983 and 1987 he took time off to stand as a parliamentary candidate for the newly formed Social Democratic Party in his home area of Halifax, Yorkshire. But the problems in African development continues to fascinate him , and particularly tbe question of how Africa’s precolonial past impacted on the present. He researched a book on this topic, published as ‘Africa’s Way : A Journry from the Past’ published by I B Tauris in 1989.
A Charitable Foundation and Grass Roots
In 1985 he was invited to work with the Gatsby Charitable Foundation to help develop its programme in Africa. This came to focus on both the diffusion to small farmers of achieved research results and the development of micro finance programmes and extended to seven countries. These initiatives were managed through local Trusts and an investment company and deployed a total of about $75 M both as grants and equity. Modified over time, the programme continues on an expanded basis.
Corruption and Transparency
By the early 1990s it was impossible to disguise the fact that African development was being impeded by corruption. Introduced by Joe Githongo, a senior accountant in Kenya, to the concept of Transparency International, Cockcroft became both a co-founder, a member of its first international Board and the Board of its UK Chapter, serving as Chairman from 2000-8. In these roles he has been particularly active in initiating TI’s ‘Business Principles for Countering Bribery’, in launching and pioneering work on corruption in the global arms trade, and in promoting the wholesale provision of the UK’s anti-bribery laws, leading to the Bribery Act of 2011 – the first time the UK had clearly outlawed bribes paid abroad.
Writing and discussing 'Global Corruption'
From 2010-12 Cockcroft drew on twenty years experience in TI to write ‘Global Corruption’ to probe deeply into the forces which drive corruption and assess ways forward in combatting it. In 2013 and 2014 he presented and discussed the book in numerous meetings in the UK, the USA, Canada, Ireland and India and at international anti corruption conferences in Brazil and Germany. The book has been published in the UK, USA, Taiwan, China, India and South Africa, and has now been followed by 'Unmasked: Corruption in the West', written in conjunction with Anne Christine Wegener. Cockcroft has continued to give a series of talks around this subject (see Events).