Corruption in African countries is hindering economic, political and social development. It is a major barrier to economic growth, good governance and basic freedoms, such as freedom of speech or citizens’ right to hold governments to account.
More than this, corruption affects the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities.
The 10th edition of the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Africa, reveals that while most people in Africa feel corruption increased in their country, a majority also feel optimistic that they, as citizens, can make a difference in the fight against corruption.
Our research shows that more than half of all citizens think corruption is getting worse in their country and that their government is doing a bad job in tackling corruption.
The report also found more than one in four people who accessed public services, such as health care and education, paid a bribe in the previous year.
This is equivalent to approximately 130 million citizens in the 35 countries surveyed.
Conducted in partnership with Afrobarometer and Omega Research, the GCB is the largest, most detailed survey of citizens’ views on corruption and their direct experiences of bribery in Africa. The survey incorporates the views of more than 47,000 citizens from 35 countries across Africa.
Institutions & services
Citizens think the police is the most corrupt institution, with 47 per cent of people believing that most or all police are corrupt. These results are consistent with findings from the 2015 report.
Unsurprisingly, police also consistently earn the highest bribery rate across Africa. Other public services like utilities, including electricity and water, and identification documents, including licenses and passports, also have high bribery rates.
Who is paying bribes?
Bribery does not affect all people equally, it hits the poorest harder than the wealthiest – often denying people access to critical healthcare, education and legal protections, with devastating consequences. Young people, aged 18-34 years, are more likely to pay bribes than older people, aged over 55 years.
Paying bribes for essential public services means poorer families have less money for other necessities like food, water and medicine.
Governments have a long way to go in regaining citizens’ trust.
Yet, despite this, African citizens think change is possible.
Africans believe they can make a difference. Governments must allow them the space to do so.
Countries in focus
Several countries stand out for their bribery rates and corruption levels, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mauritius.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Eighty-five per cent of citizens in the DRC think corruption is getting worse, which is the highest in the region. The country also has the highest bribery rate on the continent (80 per cent of public service users), with the police earning the highest bribery rate of any country across any sector - 75 per cent of those who came into with the police paid a bribe.
By contrast, Mauritius has one of the lowest bribery rates in the region (5 per cent), with the police also earning a low bribery rate (5 per cent). Given these positive results, it’s no surprise that more than 55 per cent of Mauritians think that reporting cases of corruption will lead to proper action.
As part of our analysis, we compared citizens’ views of corruption among Members of Parliament (MPs) with other indices, like the Clean Elections Index, which measure corruption in national elections and found a direct link.
Non-African actors also play a significant role in fuelling corruption in Africa through foreign bribery and money laundering.
Public sector corruption doesn’t exist in a vacuum. When money that should support critical services such as health care and education, flows out of countries due to corruption, ordinary citizens suffer most.
Too often, countries that export large volumes of goods and services around the world, fail to investigate and punish companies that pay bribes.
In turn, political leaders make deals with foreign businesses to promote their personal interests at the expense of the citizens they serve.
Tackling corruption in Africa requires a holistic, systemic approach. Some of our top recommendations to African governments include:
- ratify, implement and report on the African Union Convention to Prevent and Combat Corruption (AUCPCC)
- investigate, prosecute and sanction all reported cases of corruption, with no exception
- develop minimum standards and guidelines for ethical procurement
- adopt open contracting practices, which make data clearer and easier to analyse
- collect citizen complaints and strengthen whistleblower protections
- enable media and civil society to hold governments accountable
Governments of major economies, including G20 and OECD countries, and offshore financial centres should:
- establish public registers with information on the actual owners of private companies and trusts
- enforce international bribery laws
- implement anti-money laundering standards
Business leaders around the world should implement international anti-corruption and anti-money laundering standards.
Read the full report on the Global Corruption Barometer Africa 2019:
Image: Zhi Zulu | zhizulu.com
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