As the lowest-scoring region on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), with an average of 32, Sub-Saharan Africa’s performance paints a bleak picture of inaction against corruption. With a score of 66, the Seychelles earns the highest mark in the region, followed by Botswana (61), Cabo Verde (58), Rwanda (53) and Mauritius (52). At the bottom of the index are Somalia (9), South Sudan (12), Sudan (16) and Equatorial Guinea (16).
While the Seychelles struggles with issues of money laundering, which is not measured by the CPI, several anti-corruption laws, including a recent access to information law, and a newly established anti-corruption commission have helped strengthen the country’s anti-corruption framework. In addition, despite some restrictions, dialogue between civil society and government occurs through a national civil society platform.
Significant improvers since 2012, Cote d’Ivoire (35) and Senegal (45) still have much work to do. The political will demonstrated by the leaders of both countries, which saw a number of key legal, policy and institutional reforms implemented in their early days in office, has been on a backslide since 2016.
Since 2012, several countries, including Congo (19), Liberia (28), Madagascar (24) and Malawi (31) have significantly declined on the CPI. Congo has been the subject of repeated reports of money laundering and embezzlement of public funds by the country’s political elite with no action taken by national authorities.
In Madagascar, despite a 2018 constitutional court ruling against electoral amendments favouring the incumbent president and cited as unconstitutional, judicial independence remains a concern. More recently, the national anti-corruption agency began legal action against more than half of the country’s parliamentarians, who stand accused of taking bribes.
Towards the bottom of the index, with a score of 18, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) faces several corruption challenges. According to our recent report, Global Corruption Barometer – Africa, political integrity among government officials is extremely low, with 79 per cent of DRC citizens believing that all or most parliamentarians are involved in corruption.
With the lowest score on the CPI, Somalia is not only one of the world’s most corrupt countries, but it is also, “one of the world’s most protracted cases of statelessness” according to the 2016 Bertelsmann Stiftung Transformation Index. State fragility and poor rule of law have left gaping holes for graft to flourish from petty bribery to high-level political corruption.
Tackling corruption in the context of fragile states presents unique challenges, as fragility is both a cause and an effect of any downward trends in development. With plans underway in Somalia to hold the first “one person-one vote” election in fifty years, it is critical that political accountability structures to facilitate anti-corruption mechanisms are put in place.
Across the region, money is used to win elections, consolidate power and further personal interests. Although the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption has provisions to prevent corruption and encourage transparency in campaign financing, implementation is weak.
Country To Watch: Angola
Following four decades of authoritarian rule, Angola (26) jumped seven points in this year’s CPI, making it a significant improver. However, given its overall low score, the country is still well below the global average of 43.
Isabel Dos Santos, the former president’s daughter, who is also known as “Africa’s richest woman”, was fired from her job as head of the state oil and gas firm, Sonangol, months after President Lourenço’s election. In December 2019, as investigations into corruption allegations progressed, an Angolan court ordered a freeze of Dos Santos’s assets.
Although the country has recovered US$5 billion in stolen assets, more needs to be done to strengthen integrity and promote transparency in accounting for oil revenue.
Following a change of regime in 2017, the Angolan government introduced a set of governance reforms to crack down on corruption.
Country To Watch: Ghana
Known as a beacon of democracy in West Africa, Ghana dropped seven points on the CPI since 2014, moving from 48 in 2014 to 41 in 2019. Revelations of bribery in Ghana’s high court in 2015 and the murder of investigative journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale in early 2019 cast serious doubts on the country’s anti- corruption efforts.
Despite these developments, there is hope for change. In 2017, the Office of Special Prosecutor was established, which has the power to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption. In 2019, a right to information bill was also passed. These efforts, combined with the enhanced performance of the Auditor General’s office, offer hope for improvement.
Given recent scandals, corruption is expected to feature prominently in electoral debates during the upcoming elections in 2020.
Image: Reuters / Stephen Eisenhammer