#Editorial

Africans aren’t satisfied with government efforts to fight corruption 

Jul 28, 2021, 11:47 AM

Corruption is as old as power and as current as the morning headlines, in Africa as in the rest of the world. South Africa continues to wrestle with the fallout of “state capture” — systemic political corruption by private interests — during Jacob Zuma’s presidency. Namibians are gearing up for the high-profile #Fishrot trial involving two ministers accused of accepting bribes from an Icelandic company in exchange for lucrative fishing rights in the country’s waters.

Allegations of corruption involving covid-19 pandemic relief pour in from ZimbabweSomaliaKenyaNigeria and other countries.

Analysts estimate that developing countries lose $1.26 trillion per year to corruption, theft and tax evasion — enough to lift 1.4 billion people above the poverty line for six years.

And ordinary Africans say things are getting worse. In Afrobarometer surveys in 18 African countries in late 2019 and early 2020, a majority of citizens say corruption increased in their country during the previous year and their government is doing too little to control it. Perceptions and experiences of corruption vary widely by country, but a majority of citizens in every surveyed country say they risk retaliation should they get involved by reporting corruption to the authorities.

On average across 18 countries, six in 10 Africans (59%) say that corruption increased in their country during the previous year, including 41% who say it “increased a lot.” Only one in five (21%) believe it decreased at least “somewhat” (see Figure 1).

Perceptions that corruption is getting worse are most widespread in Gabon (82%), Lesotho (79%), and Mali (74%), as well as in Namibia (74%) — even though survey fieldwork in Namibia was completed before the #Fishrot corruption scheme was exposed in November 2019. Angola is the only surveyed country where more people see a decrease (44%) than an increase (33%) in corruption.

The situation has worsened most dramatically in Mali, where the proportion reporting that corruption is increasing has risen by 43 percentage points since 2014, from 31% to 74%, followed by Gabon (+30 points), Côte d'Ivoire (+25 points) and Guinea (+25 points). In contrast, in three countries the number who report that corruption is increasing has dropped by large margins: Sierra Leone (-30 percentage points), Ghana (-23 points) and Nigeria (-20 points).

In assessing key public institutions, Africans are most likely to see the police as corrupt; almost half (48%) of Africans say “most” or “all” police officials are involved in graft, in addition to 36% who see “some of them” as corrupt. More than one-third of citizens see widespread corruption in parliament, the civil service, the legal system, the tax office and the presidency (see Figure 2).

Perceptions of institutional corruption have increased modestly over the past decade. Across 11 countries surveyed in both 2008/2009 and 2019/2020, the share of citizens who see “most” or “all” officials as corrupt increased by 11 percentage points for the presidency, by 9 points for members of parliament, and by 7 points for judges/magistrates while remaining steady for the police, civil servants and local government councillors.

A Guest Editorial

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