Africa is Corrupt

Transparency International’s 2010 report is out. The report, compiled by the Berlin-based group, measures the public perception of corruption in the public sector, covers 178 countries around the world.

Check out the interactive “corruption map”. No surprises: the Third World is winning here, with large dots (the deeper the red, the more corrupt the nation) indicating that the public’s “perception of corruption” in the respective nation is very high.

What’s interesting is that in the nations with the most money in “play”, where there have been some significant financial seismic activity (the Big One that brought down the markets in the past year, for instance), the perception of corruption is low-to-nil.

The Transparency International report will merely supports this view – Africa was found to be the “most corrupt region in the world,” with six African nations among the 10 most corrupt countries: Somalia (the most corrupt), Sudan, Chad, Burundi, Angola and Equatorial Guinea. (Botswana is ranked as the “least corrupt” African nation.)

While I’m not questioning the existence of corruption in afore-accused nations, I wonder why those in economically powerful nations, who bilk their publics out of millions in legally untouchable ways – or have helped create laws that allow them to get kickbacks via loopholes in regulations – will never inspire their own people’s perception of corruption on the scale that Africa does.

Though Britain frequently yammers out advice/harangues to its former colonies, last year found their own Members of Parliament culottes-deep in the public sweeties-jar. Happily, the world now views Britain as more corrupt “since the MP’s expenses scandal “

The TI report reveals that “Britain has dropped dramatically to 20th in a league table of countries perceived to be the cleanest in the world.”

The US is not even included in this survey. But I’ll bet that if we ask a random group of Americans, they will still imagine that “Africa” is corrupt.



Neelika Jayawardane

Sharp-tongued literature professor. Senior editor at Africa is a Country.

  1. Thanks for posting. This is fascinating, disheartening and worth close reading. One cannot but notice the over representation of Africa in the corruption stakes and well it should but I wonder if this is the whole story. If the methodology is based mainly on local perceptions then it seems to be me one should compare, contrast and draw comparative lessons with care. One group of people may have a sharper and more aggrieved sense of the abuse of public resource for private gain than another people not because there is more abuse but because the abuse is felt to be more objectionable.

  2. My perception, as someone who grew up in London and lived in Nigeria for two years, is that in the U.K. we are simply better at hiding corruption, or perhaps we are just hypocrites, whereas Africans are more honest.
    I recently worked in London as a tutor for a charity. The charity had targets to "deliver qualifications", working with young people who were not in school. The way that they tried to achieve this was by cheating, i.e. committing fraud.
    The problem is that there are no NGO's monitoring this type of fraud in the "developed" countries so it doesn't get reported.

  3. Thanks, people. I always have that nagging fear – that the US/Europe contingent is good at telling its Others about how to be good…while finding some innovative ways to be good old fashioned bad. What's interesting, as you pointed out, is the discourse around corruption in different countries – how the ordinary person speaks/incorporates it into life.

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