Sub-Saharan Africa faced a myriad of threats in 2015, from the Ebola epidemic to rising terrorism. Again and again we saw corruption exacerbate the causes of crises, and undermine the response. This year’s index presents a worrying picture – with 40 of 46 countries showing a serious corruption problem and no improvement for continent powerhouses Nigeria and South Africa. Indicators for rule of law and justice score particularly badly. While some governments are reducing risks for business, there’s little change for citizens – as systemic corruption leaves many countries struggling to uphold basic rule of law.
Progress is possible. Looking at the different areas covered by the index, we can see particular improvement around transparency in financial management – good news for the companies operating in the region. Overall a number of countries have all improved in recent years, notably Senegal, which has risen significantly since the government introduced a series of anti-corruption measures. Regional high-performer Botswana scores 63 out of 100 in the index. As the new Sustainable Development Goals act as a catalyst for strengthening governance, there’s hope other countries could follow.
But corruption continues to deny citizens justice and security. As conflict-ridden Somalia lands at the bottom of the index again, many other countries are let down by a failure to uphold rule of law. Reinforcing our African public survey – which found police and courts have the highest rates of bribery – law enforcement isn’t always working to protect citizens. In many countries, including low-scorers Angola, Burundi and Uganda, we’re seeing a failure to prosecute corrupt public officials on the one hand, and intimidation of citizens who speak out against corruption on the other.
If corruption and impunity are to “be a thing of the past” as stated by the African Union … governments need to take bold steps to ensure rule of law is the reality for everyone.
What needs to happen
If corruption and impunity are to “be a thing of the past” as stated by the African Union in Agenda 2063, “The Africa We Want”, governments need to take bold steps to ensure rule of law is the reality for everyone. Prosecuting corruption will restore faith among people who no longer believe in the institutions that are supposed to protect them. Transparency and accountability must go hand in hand when tackling corruption – as these results show, this is still far from the norm in Africa.