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CPI 2020: Sub-Saharan Africa

A Graffiti in Johannesburg reads “Recover with integrity?”

Graffiti in Johannesburg for International Anti-Corruption Day 2020. (Image: Saint Nic Media / Corruption Watch)

With an average score of 32, Sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest performing region on the CPI, showing little improvement from previous years and underscoring a need for urgent action.

With a score of 66, the Seychelles consistently earns top marks in the region, followed by Botswana (60) and Cabo Verde (58). At the bottom of the index are Sudan (16), Somalia (12) and South Sudan (12).

49 countries assessed in region 
32/100 Average regional score

Regional overview

COVID-19 corruption challenges

Across the region, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights structural gaps in national health care systems, corruption risks associated with public procurement and the misappropriation of emergency funds.

The economic shock of the pandemic led to protests and dissent in many countries, including South Africa (44), Angola (27) and Zimbabwe (24), about rising costs of living, corruption and the widespread misuse of emergency funds.

In South Africa, an audit of COVID-19 expenditures revealed overpricing, fraud and corruption. In Nigeria (25), civil society organisations denounced reports of hoarding of COVID-19 medications by states and called on anti-corruption institutions to investigate the allegations.

Bribery and SDGs

More generally, bribery continues to impede access to basic services. In 2019, the Global Corruption Barometer – Africa revealed that more than one out of four people – or approximately 130 million citizens in the 35 African countries surveyed – paid a bribe to access essential public services, like health care.

Unless these corruption challenges are addressed, many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa risk missing their Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets come 2030.

The region is already experiencing an alarming rise in extreme poverty, undermining the progress of recent decades. Institutions charged with providing basic public services should be more transparent and accountable in their operations. Improved policies and mechanisms are needed to allow citizens to access public information, demand accountability and safely report corruption.

Significant improvers and decliners

Scoring 36 on the CPI, Côte d’Ivoire has significantly improved, by nine points since 2013. However, the political crisis surrounding the re-election of President Allasane Ouattara, which erupted into violence and human rights violations, risks derailing progress.

With a score of 19, the Republic of Congo significantly declined by seven points since 2012. This performance is reflective of endemic corruption and impunity by the country’s political elite. The Republic of Congo has an anti-corruption framework in place, but its implementation remains weak.

Significant improvers

Significant decliners

Enforce existing commitments

To reverse the region’s position as the worst performing on the CPI, governments in Sub-Saharan Africa must take decisive action, particularly in those economies already weakened by the ongoing economic recession stemming from COVID-19.

Rather than add pledges, countries must enforce numerous existing anti-corruption commitments, including Agenda 2063, the transformative agenda of the African Union for inclusive growth and sustainable development.

These commitments can only be successfully realised if the continent is rooted in good governance, democratic values, gender equality, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.

Countries to watch


With a score of 30, Malawi is a significant decliner on the CPI, dropping seven points since 2012.

Notorious for the “cash-gate scandal” of 2013, involving high levels of public sector corruption and misappropriation of funds, the country continues to grapple with corruption.

A recent government audit revealed public sector corruption of astronomical proportions, with an estimated US$1 billion allegedly stolen by the previous government.

A new government elected in June 2020 promises a fresh start, with several investigations into corruption already underway, and some key arrests made in connection with a cement import scandal.

In addition, the extradition of a high-profile Malawian pastor accused of money laundering in South Africa may be another test of the country’s commitment to anti-corruption.

The parliament building entrance in Malawi's capital city

Malawi has an opportunity to strengthen good governance and promote anti-corruption efforts to reverse the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy. (Image: CC BY-SA 3.0 / MsTingak)


With a score of 33, Zambia is a significant decliner on the CPI, dropping five points since 2013.

Corruption is endemic in Zambia and affects people’s access to essential public services. According to our 2019 report, nearly one in five Zambian citizens paid bribes to receive services like health care or education.

The mounting levels of corruption may be attributable to weaknesses in the national public procurement system, operating against a backdrop of rising foreign debt and high levels of poverty.

Stronger commitment to procurement reforms and open civic spaces will support greater transparency and accountability, but the upcoming general election will ultimately determine whether corruption will be a priority in the coming years.

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