JOHANNESBURG — The southern African nation of Botswana has again captured the title of Africa’s least corrupt nation, according to an annual report by watchdog Transparency International. A spokesman for Botswana's anti-corruption agency says the mineral-rich nation has worked hard to keep its hands clean.
Transparency International’s map of Africa is mostly shaded in intense oranges and reds, with the darkest red signaling perceptions of deep-seated corruption.
It is hardly a surprise that war-torn Somalia bottoms out the list, along with Afghanistan and North Korea. The Horn of Africa nation hasn’t had a functioning government for more than two decades.
But in that sunset-colored map of Africa, Botswana stands out as is the lone splash of yellow on the continent. It’s nearly the same sunny shade as Spain and the United States, though not as bright as Norway and Australia.
Lentswe Motshoganetsi, a spokesman for Botswana’s anti-corruption agency, says the government has made a concerted effort to educate citizens about corruption and prosecute cases of corruption.
“We’ve done a lot, and then even our prosecution rate is high by international standards. I want to believe that those are some of the issues, or some of the areas that Transparency International looks into when they do their listing, or their findings," he said.
Motshoganetsi says protecting against corruption is important for a small and resource-rich nation like Botswana. The nation has great mineral wealth, including diamonds, which has been a cause of corruption and violence in nations like Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Corruption can cause civil wars between a country like this; corruption can annihilate all the assets the country has made. So it is important that we have the checks and balances through the anti-corruption agency, which we can make sure that will prolong these minerals, or the wealth, that this country is currently standing on," he said.
The five least corrupt African nations have one thing in common: they are all small in population. Botswana has just two million people.
Botswana has also been ruled by one party since its independence in 1966, which has led some to criticize its shining reputation.
Indigenous rights watchdog Survival International has also criticized the government and says it has harassed and unfairly treated the indigenous San people.
Motshoganetsi, as a spokesman for the anti-corruption agency, said he couldn’t speak about governance issues. But he agreed that Botswana has more work to do.
African population centers fared worse in the Transparency International report: South Africa, for instance, scored a mediocre 43 rating. This is a country that sees regular corruption scandals, including a possible investigation into the president for alleged government-funded improvements to his country home.
Zimbabwe pulled southern Africa’s lowest score and fell nine places from its already poor ranking last year. Rights groups have reported a rise in political violence, likely committed by the ruling party, in recent months.
Botswana may be an African leader, with a score of 65 to Somalia’s dismal eight. But it has a way to go before it reaches the top of the class, where Denmark, Finland and New Zealand tied for first place with a squeaky-clean score of 90.