While Africa is home to some extremely diverse and culturally interesting countries, beautiful sceneries, and wonderful historic remains, it is unfortunately also a continent that has been plagued by conflict and unrest. Years of fragile post-colonial democracies have led to the creation of governments where corruption is quite prominent, despite the efforts of many groups trying to improve the standard of living and the robustness of governmental institutions in Africa.
Let’s have a look at the most corrupt countries in Africa according to the Corruption Perceptions Index. This index ranks 180 countries based on the perceived levels of corruption in their public sectors, after interviewing experts and representatives of business. Unfortunately, the bottom of the scale (out of 100, with 100 being the cleanest) is dominated by African countries.
List of Africa’s Most Corrupt Countries
Somalia scored a measly 9 points on the Corruption Perceptions Index scale, making it the most corrupt country in Africa. Its economy is mostly informal and based on livestock and telecommunications, as well as money sent home by Somalis who work abroad.
Somalia emerged from a colonial history in 1960, when two Sultanates united to form an independent Somali Republic under a civilian government. The subsequent Somali Democratic Republic collapsed in 1991 when a civil war broke out, which led to most of the Western world being aware of Somalia as a place of unrest, poverty and famine. The country has appeared at the bottom of the Corruption Perceptions Index since 2009, citing corrupt government officials accepting bribes as a regular occurrence. Moreover, the instability in the country restricts business development, which aggravates the likelihood of people resorting to corrupt activities to carry out their daily work. Business is therefore based on patronage networks and there are monopolies that govern the market.
Sadly, Somalia is known as “one of the world’s most protracted cases of statelessness” (2016 Bertelsmann Stiftung Transformation Index) – painting a bleak picture as to its chances for improvement in the near future.
2. South Sudan
A mere 3 points above Somalia, South Sudan scores a 12 out of 100 on the CPI scale and is the second-most corrupt country in Africa. Bribery is the main way to get ahead in almost all sectors of the economy and the judicial system is considered inefficient in tackling corruption, as it is also lacking integrity in its structure. Despite there being a number of anti-corruption laws, these don’t appear to be enforced at all, and the Global Anti-corruption Network cites close connections between businesses and the authorities as the only way for the former to develop.
3. Equatorial Guinea
While Equatorial Guinea is not conflict-ridden like the other African countries listed amongst the most corrupt, it appears that the ruling elite have created a system that benefits them and fosters corrupt practices. Most of the country is extremely poor, while the elites have a lavish, luxurious lifestyle. The president’s son (and country’s vice-president) was convicted for corruption in France in 2017. However, back home, he collects luxury watches and cars and parties like a celebrity.
With the same number of CPI points as Equatorial Guinea, Sudan has a massively corrupt ruling class and almost no transparency. Bribes are essential for businesses to get ahead and public servants are known to publicly demand facilitation payments. Moreover, members of the government either directly or indirectly hold shares and/or stakes in most businesses, reinforcing a system of patronage.
Like many other corrupt countries in Africa on this list, facilitation payments and bribery are officially prohibited by law, but this doesn’t prevent them from going ahead without any adverse intervention.
5. Democratic Republic of the Congo
Another country which has been victim to savage conflict, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has a serious corruption problem which is preventing its economic development and any growth of equality among the population. While there has been some improvement in the levels of corruption compared to recent history, the ruling powers are known to minimise free speech and press, which contributes to a lack of transparency as to the practices within the DRC. Transparency International report that 80% of DRC citizens surveyed by them state that they have to pay bribes for water supply, dealing with the police, or even obtaining identification documents.
Libya came under international scrutiny after the death of Muammar Gaddafi and the apparent crumble into disorder, but in reality, a corrupt system was in place there all along, supported by cronyism. Businesses report significant difficulties working legally in Libya, especially when it comes to public procurement and the oil industry. All sectors are dominated by bribery and favoritism, and if you set up a business you will be in direct competition with state-owned companies that are supported in a preferential fashion. International NGOs consider corruption to have worsened after the end of Gaddafi’s rule, in fact.
7. Guinea Bissau
Guinea Bissau, Libya and the DRC all have the same low score on the CPI scale, of 18. This small West African country used to be colonised by the Portuguese and has been independent since 1974, but it has a history of political upheaval and general instability which has harmed its chances of developing a prosperous economy. Only one elected president has been successful in serving a full five-year term in Guinea Bissau, and bribery and cronyism plague the higher echelons of society. It is extremely difficult for foreign or indigenous companies to run a business in this country, which prevents it from developing. Moreover, Guinea Bissau has been plagued by drug trafficking, as Latin America-based gangs started using it as a transhipment point for cocaine into Europe. This further added to the monetary incentives for corruption, making Guinea Bissau one of the most corrupt countries in Africa.
In most cases, these countries have been ranked as the most corrupt in the world. The lack of strong public institutions and peaceful climate have contributed to cementing corruption and the gap between the elite and the poorest has grown as a result.
I hope that this article on most corrupt countries in Africa was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Country Rankings Page!