Levels of corruption in Africa remain high, says watchdog

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently said she hadn't been successful in fighting corruption.
Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently said she hadn't been successful in fighting corruption. Reuters/Tiksa Negeri

Transparency International said the rise of populist politicians around the world risks undermining the fight against corruption. The NGO published its yearly index on perceived corruption this Wednesday, which ranks 176 countries.


The number one spot - the country that is least corrupt- is shared by New Zealand and Denmark, while the spot for the most corrupt is occupied by Somalia.

Looking at the Transparency international ranking - which scores countries on a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 represents the lowest levels of corruption - not much has changed in Africa compared to 2015.

Countries like Nigeria, Zimbabwe or Kenya are still hovering around the score of 50, while Somalia remains at the bottom of the ranking.

The Strife-torn country has been the worst offender for the past ten years.

"The first question we should ask is wether what we call corruption in the western hemisphere is the same as corruption in Somalia," says Roland Marchal, a researcher with Sciences Po based in Nairobi.

"In Somalia much has yet to be built, which means there's a number of social patterns which are still regulating politics and the economy. It's a long way to go."

There are countries where things got worse. The best example is probably Ghana which is the second worst decliner in Africa according to Transparency International.

Despite being seen as a model of stability in the region, citizens there say there's a rampant corruption problem.

"Ghana is a curious example, there we have a country that has a good democratic system and check and balances that are better than other countries.

"But the problem is that the government, that is leaving, didn't fufill its commitments on corruptio," explains Lucas Olo Fernandes, the Internal Managing Director of Transparency International.

On a brighter note, other countries, albeit small ones, have improved. In particular Cape Verde and Sao Tomé and Principe, deemed the most improved African countries of 2016.

The two small countries held succesful elections last year and oberservers have noted an improving integrity system in Cape Verde, while in Sao Tomé and Principe the transition of power happened peacefully.

"We have to say that in most of the countries, in order to fight corruption, you need to have good checks and balances," says Lucas Olo Fernandes.

"In these two countries, in the last year they've proven to be clean in terms of elections. It means that checks and ballances are there. The likelihood of corruption is less important than elsewhere."

In big African nations, such as Kenya or South Africa the situation generally remained the same than in 2015, with the exceptionof South Africa where President Jacob Zuma was accused of corruption.

Kenya is an interesting case beacause the parliament last year adopted a law aimed at fighting corruption.

"You need a proper judicial system," says Roland Marchal.

"The one in Kenya isn't working but it's certainly better that in Somalia. You also need to make sure that when someone in being put in front of a court it's because of corruption and not because of a political agenda."

Kenyan authorities failing to deliver on their anti corruption promises shows this fight requires more than just good will.

"In some countries, we've seen newcomers campaining to promises to fight corruption," explains Lucas Olo Fernandes. "One of the things they find out is that it's not so easy to fight. In Liberia, the President recently said she wasn't so successful in fighting corruption. Kenya is another example."

In this regard, the Gambia will closely be monitored in 2017, to see if new President Adama Barrow delivers on his promises of change.


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