This report surveys the public experiences and perceptions of corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa, in order to put the views of ordinary people at the centre of corruption debates. It finds that while many Africans view corruption as being on the rise in their own country and believe their government is not doing well in tackling the issue, there are a small number of countries where government is seen to be quite effective in addressing public sector graft. The report calls on governments to act against the corruption which exists in their country, in order to boost development and economic growth, and win people’s trust in the government.
This report is based on a field survey of 43,143 people in 28 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, to understand their experiences and perceptions of corruption. This involved face to face survey, where samples were selected and weighted to be nationally representative of all adults aged 18+ living in each country. All interviews were conducted face-to-face in the language of the respondent’s choice.
There is a clear disparity between a few strong performing countries in regard to anti-corruption and the many weak performers on anti-corruption across the continent. Most governments are failing to meet citizens’ expectations in regard to fighting corruption. There is no government which is rated positively on its anti-corruption efforts by a clear majority of its citizens. On the contrary, 18 out of 28 governments are seen as fully failing to address corruption by a large majority. Citizens are the most negative about the scale of corruption in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana. However, there are a few countries in which citizens see low levels of corruption in their public institutions and see corruption as declining in their own country. Citizens in Botswana, Lesotho, Senegal and Burkina Faso tend to have the most positive views.
Bribery affects more than one-in-five Africans, and disproportionally affects the poor in urban areas. The report estimates that nearly 75 million people have paid a bribe in the past year – some of these to escape punishment by the police or courts, but many also forced to pay to get access to the basic services that they desperately need. Police and the courts have the highest rate of bribery.
The survey also finds that:
- Across the region, the police and business executives are seen to have the highest levels of corruption. The strong negative assessment of business executives is new compared to previous assessments.
- Many people feel unable to contribute to helping fight corruption. People in the region are divided as to whether ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption – just over half of people think that they can (53 per cent), while 38 per cent think they cannot.
The disparity across the sub-continent offers hope – addressing corruption is possible. To do this:
- Governments must deliver on their commitments to tackle corruption and effectively investigate and prosecute cases, as well as promote reforms and ensure systems are in place to protect whistleblowers.
- Private sector companies across the region need to be more transparent in order to build public trust.
- Effective measures and metrics need to be devised to track progress on SDGs strategies.
- There needs to be safe conditions for civil society to be effectively involved in anti-corruption activities, with governments supporting operational and physical freedom of such organisations.