Corruption has been identified as one of the leading causes of poverty in Africa where more than 48 percent of the population are poor, according to the World Bank. Although one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which the world hopes to achieve by 2030 is ending poverty, Africa may struggle to join the rest of the world in achieve the goal if it does not kill corruption. Sadly, the scourge is rising, as 58 percent of Africans say corruption has increased on the continent over the past 12 months.
In a new opinion poll from global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption, Transparency International, it was estimated that nearly 75 million people have paid a bribe in the past year – some, in order to escape punishment by the police or courts, but many, forced to pay to get access to services they desperately need. 22 percent of people that have come into contact with a public service in the past 12 months paid a bribe, the poll shows. 28 percent of people who come into contact with the courts have also paid bribe, as well as 27 percent who have come in contact with the police.
“Corruption creates and increases poverty and exclusion. While corrupt individuals with political power enjoy a lavish life, millions of Africans are deprived of their basic needs like food, health, education, housing, access to clean water and sanitation,” laments Transparency International Chair José Ugaz.
In the report People and Corruption: Africa Survey 2015, done in partnership with pan-African research network, Afrobarometer, majority of Africans say they think that their government is failing in its efforts to fight corruption. In 18 out of 28 countries surveyed in Sub-Saharan Africa between March 2014 and September 2015, a large majority of people said their government is doing badly at fighting corruption.
“We call on governments and judges to stop corruption, eradicate impunity and implement Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals to curb corruption,” said Ugaz. “We also call on the people to demand honesty and transparency, and mobilize against corruption. It is time to say enough and unmask the corrupt.”
But demanding honesty is no mean feat in Africa. The survey finds that corruption reporting mechanisms are often seen as too dangerous, ineffective or unclear. More than 1 out of 3 Africans thinks that a whistleblower faces negative consequences for reporting corruption, which is why most people don’t report.
However, Ugaz insists that “Corruption can be tackled”. He asked that people be given the space to stand up against the scourge without fear of retaliation.
The Transparency International Chair also called on governments to get serious about ending the widespread impunity in Africa.
The corruption red flag hung over Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana where citizens are the most negative about the scale of corruption in their country. But there were some bright spots across the continent. In Botswana, Burkina Faso, Lesotho and Senegal, citizens were some of the most positive in the region when discussing corruption.
The police ranked again as having the highest levels of corruption but a new entrant came in at second. Business ranked as having the second highest levels of corruption in sub-Saharan Africa, just below the police, as people reported business executives as highly corrupt.
To ensure an improved fight against corruption and hopefully, an end to the scourge, Transparency International recommends that African governments strengthen and enforce legislation on corrupt business people and anti-money laundering to curb the high volume of illicit flows from the continent, establish right to information and whistle-blower protection legislation, and show a sustained and deep commitment to acting on police corruption at all levels. The organisation also urged the African Union and its members to provide the political will and financing needed to implement the review mechanism established for its anti-corruption convention.