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Recognising progress in the fight against corruption: Stories from Africa

Protests in Cape Town, South Africa, in April 2017. Image: Aqua Images / Shutterstock

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As a citizen of a nation where corruption is endemic and hinders all forms of progress, a person can feel overwhelmed and resigned to the apparent status quo. The fight against corruption often feels like an uphill battle. But there are fights in this battle that are being won and there is plenty of progress and optimism to be found.

Assessing implementation of the shared anti-corruption roadmap for Africa

One way to cultivate optimism is to be aware of existing tools that support the fight against corruption. For people in African countries, one of these tools is the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC). This convention entered into force in 2006 and became a shared roadmap for member states to implement good governance and anti-corruption policies and systems. So far, it has been ratified by 47 of the 55 African Union (AU) member states. A few years after the AUCPCC, the African Union took one step further and earmarked 11 July as Africa Anti-Corruption Day.

A lot has happened since then, and for the past few years Transparency International has been working on making people aware of the AUCPCC and assessing how well African countries are implementing it, including through our project Towards the Enforcement of Africa’s Commitments against Corruption (TEA-CAC).

Our chapters in ten countries carried out the assessment and then worked with partners in the media and civil society to share the progress countries had made with implementation. They also made recommendations to further this progress in the future.

Specific contexts need specific solutions: developing advocacy tools

In Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia, local Transparency chapters decided to take this a step further – they developed and actioned a number of advocacy tactics to hold their respective governments accountable in specific areas where corruption was especially widespread and hard to fight, namely, money laundering, illicit enrichment, political party funding, and civil society and media.

These strategies and tools were designed and deployed according to the individual contexts. They ranged from raising awareness through theatre and comic books and recognising journalists who were investigating corruption in in Côte d’Ivoire, and participating in a number of multi-stakeholder forums in South Africa to improve the handling of corruption reports. These tactics have been documented for other anti-corruption actors across Africa to learn from and replicate in their own work.

And while each country comes with its own unique set of challenges in tackling corruption, all Transparency International chapters under the TEA-CAC project recorded significant successes with their advocacy work.

The South Africa chapter, Corruption Watch, did extensive work on how to evaluate and strengthen anti-corruption institutions. In Côte d’Ivoire, Social Justice capitalised on its strong working relationship with the government and is seeing great progress in bridging the gap between civil society and government institutions. The focus for TI-Rwanda has been to encourage whistleblowers, both by working to ensure systems are in place to protect individuals who come forward and by raising awareness through the media.

I Watch in Tunisia, also deftly demonstrated the power an empowered civil society and media encouraging the government towards more transparency and accountability. When the country’s new cabinet was formed in October 2021 after months of political turmoil, I Watch called on all new members of government to declare their assets online in accordance with the 2018 law on declaration of assets and interests. Their calls were heeded – the very next day, the Prime Minister of Tunisia and all newly appointed ministers filed their declarations. This is a positive development in fighting illicit enrichment in the country.

Corruption in Africa remains a big challenge and citizens across the region continue to face its effects. With a few exceptions, anti-corruption progress has been slow and incremental. But this incremental progress is worth noting. Identifying and recognising this progress helps us build upon it.