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Dissecting Corruption in Africa Using Transparency International and Afro-barometer Indices.
Dissecting Corruption in Africa Using Transparency International and Afro-barometer Indices.

By - Adedoyin Shittu

Posted - 10-02-2020

Despite the African Union declaration of 2018 as the Anti-Corruption year and many leaders in the sub Saharan region big plans to fight corruption, the region is still the lowest in the “Corruption Perception Index” by Transparency International in its latest rating and corruption is said to be on the increase in the region. With corruption perception index of an average of 32 in the region, this is below the global average of 43. This paints a bleak picture of inaction against corruption in the region.  


While ranking of countries is relative to the performance of other countries, the index is based on the results of surveys from these institutions. Countries are scored from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

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The Global Corruption Barometer released by Transparency International and Afrobarometer, reveals that more than half of sub Saharan Africans think corruption is getting worse in their country and that their government is doing a bad job at tackling corruption. It was also found more than one in four people who accessed public services, such as health care and education, paid a bribe in the preceding year.  The report also revealed how corruption is hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest. For example, the poorest people are twice as likely to pay a bribe as the richest people in Africa. The report found out that almost two in five of the poorest people in Africa paid bribes for public services, while only one in five of the wealthiest people paid bribes for public services.

The Global Corruption Barometer index was developed by Transparency International (TI), an international non-governmental organisation based in Berlin, Germany in collaboration with Afrobarometer. Afrobarometer has been capturing data on public opinion in Africa, on topics ranging from democracy and governance to economic management and trust, since 1999. This particular report relies on data from 45,823 interviews completed in 34 countries between September 2016 and September 2018.

Looking at Global Corruption Barometer –Africa
Looking at the corruption index, smaller countries such as Seychelles, Botswana and Cabo Verde are topping the African charts and much progress is made by these African countries on the corruption index. Whereas the countries with bigger economies are not featured on the chart with the exception of South Africa.

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In West Africa, Ghana is considered to be one of the stable countries but its CPI Index has fallen from 47 in 2015 to 41 in 2019 and it is no longer ranked on the top ten highest ranked African countries. Murder of investigative journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale in early 2019 cast serious doubts on the country’s anti- corruption efforts. He was an investigative journalist with “Tiger Eye” whose undercover reporting had exposed traffickers, murderers, corrupt officials and high-court judges. Though Ghana performed better than Burkina Faso and Lesotho which used to be featured in the highly ranked.

The top ten highest ranked African countries for five consecutive years

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
1 Botswana Botswana Botswana Seychelles Seychelles
2 Cape Verde Cape Verde Seychelles Botswana Botswana
3 Seychelles Mauritius Cape Verde Capo Verde Capo Verde
4 Rwanda Rwanda Rwanda Rwanda Rwanda
5 Mauritius Namibia Namibia Namibia Mauritius
6 Namibia Sao Tome and Principle Mauritius Mauritius Namibia
7 Ghana Senegal Sao Tome and Principle Sao Tome and Principle Sao Tome and Principle
8 Lesotho South Africa Senegal Senegal Senegal
9 Senegal Ghana South Africa South Africa South Africa
10 South Africa Burkina Faso Burkina Faso Burkina Faso Benin

The least ranked ten sub Saharan African countries for five consecutive years

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
1 Somalia Somalia Somalia Somalia Somalia
2 Sudan South Sudan South Sudan South Sudan South Sudan
3 South Sudan Sudan Sudan Sudan Sudan
4 Angola Guinea Bissau Guinea Bissau Guinea Bissau Equatorial Guinea
5 Guinea Bissau Eritrea Equatorial Guinea Equatorial Guinea Guinea Bissau
6 Eritrea Angola Angola Burundi Democratic 

Republic of 


7 Zimbabwe Republic of Congo Eritrea Congo Congo
8 Burundi Chad Chad Chad Burundi
9 Democratic Republic Central African Republic Republic of Congo Angola Chad
10 Chad Burundi Democratic Republic of Congo Democratic Republic of Congo Eritrea


How Africa’s largest economies rank on the Corruption Perceptions Index for 5 consecutive years

Nigeria South Africa Angola Ethiopia Kenya Sudan Tanzania
2015 26 44 15 33 25 12 30
2016 28 45 18 34 26 14 32
2017 27 43 19 35 28 16 36
2018 27 43 19 34 27 16 36
2019 26 44 26 37 28 16 37

Several of the continent’s biggest countries and economies are recording little or no progress in the CPI index, with the exception of Angola. It is quite disappointing that only South Africa scored the Global CPI index mark among the sub Saharan African biggest economy. With a score of 44, South Africa ranks just above the global average with a point. 

Buhari and corruption

In the case of Nigeria, despite anti-corruption being the cornerstone message of his election campaigns, president Muhammadu Buhari has not significantly improved the country’s standing with respect to corruption. In fact the country has now slipped back to the 2015 levels when Buhari promised the fight against corruption. Many especially the political opponents of the present ruling party in Nigeria have branded Buhari’s anti-corruption fight to be a “witch-hunt” targeted only at opposition figures. This recent ranking also suggests that the government has done little in their “Fight against Corruption”. Yet the presidency, anti-corruption agency in Nigeria and the government in general has dismissed the latest corruption report as “baseless.”

Shots fired at the Transparency International
Not only has Nigeria slipped from 144th in 2018 to 146th in the 2019 Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, the country fell by a point, despite having an anti-corruption crusader at the hem of affair. And of the 19 countries in the West African region, Nigeria was ranked the fourth most corrupt country. This did not go down well with the authorities in the country and the anti-graft agency operating in the country.

The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami said TI was oblivious of the “achievements” of the Buhari-administration in its resolve to tackle corruption and the facts on the ground do not correlate with the information dished out by the group. The EFCC was not so civil with its words but the agency described the report as baseless and appalling. The Presidency also tried to ridicule the report, saying it was not based on “facts”, but on perception and hearsay.

Police collecting bribe

The CPI 2019 for Nigeria index relies on nine different data sources from different institutions that capture perceptions of corruption within the past two years. These institutions include: African Development Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment; Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index; Economist Intelligence Unit Country Ratings; Global Insight Country Risk Guide. Others are: PRS International Country Risk Guide; World Economic Forum Economic Opinion Survey; World Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA); World Justice Project Rule of Law Index; and varieties of Democracy projects.

Denying the reality of the level of corruption in Nigeria, is like an “ostrich burying his hand in the sand” and that will only exacerbate the corruption crisis the country is facing.

Why does sub Saharan countries have low CPI score
One common issue countries in sub-Saharan Africa face is the crisis of corruption. A majority of African citizens (55%) think corruption increased in their country in the previous 12 months, while far fewer think it declined (23%). According to the findings, more than 1 in every 4 persons who used a public service in the previous 12 month had to pay a bribe and the police is the public service most likely to demand and receive bribes. This means that an approximate of 130 million people across the 35 countries surveyed paid a bribe in the last year.

The result also shows that many people believe there are high levels of corruption among police, government officials, politicians and more. However the police were labelled “the most corrupt institution in Africa”. The police is the public service most likely to demand and receive bribes before rendering any service, though public clinics and health centers were not exempted from bribery and corruption.

Autocratic regimes, weak institutions, civil repression, and unresponsive political systems however continue to undermine anti-corruption efforts in the region.

Shortcomings of the Global Corruption Index
While ‘Perception of corruption is not corruption itself’”, the index measures “perception of corruption”. Many have called it flawed because it cannot measure the actual corruption of a country, but perceived corruption. In simple terms, it does not measure corruption in the real sense. The index also only measures “public sector” corruption and in advanced economies, the public sector has a lower role compared to the private sector, because the private sector is the major driver of the economy. This thereby gives the index a biased view.

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Private-sector exclusion means that the activities of multinationals dominating developing economies are ignored, whereas they are involved in the huge illicit financial flow. Yet, corruption indices typically rank developing countries which suffer most from these illicit flows, as the most corrupt, whereas advanced economies, which often benefit the most from such flows, are deemed least corrupt.
Transparency International is based in Germany, its key founders are not only Germans but representatives from the World Bank, US military intelligence and US multinationals and industrialists.

Transparency International operates in a very important area in the society but there is a huge and pressing need for an effective multidimensional corruption indicator but the current index is too narrow minded for informed analysis in corruption. Also the TI is too biased in its exclusions and hypocritical in its neutrality.


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