JOHANNESBURG - Sub-Saharan Africa continues to appear at the bottom of Transparency International’s annual index, with the violent, chaotic East African nation of Somalia maintaining its 12-year streak as the lowest rated nation on the chart that tracks perceptions of corruption in 180 countries.
The index also found that more than two thirds of the countries surveyed scored below 50 points on the 100-point scale, with an average score of 43. African nations averaged a score of 32. No nation has ever earned a perfect score. New Zealand leads the index with 89 points. Somalia scored just nine.
Transparency International’s regional adviser for Southern Africa, Kate Muwoki, described the year in corruption on the continent.
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“To put it simply, most African governments are failing to address corruption in the region, although we do have leaders that have invested in systemic responses to build strong institutions and create behavior change,” she told VOA from Berlin, where the organization is based. “... So, in terms of some of these rays of hope, at the top of the table we have Botswana, Seychelles, Cabo Verde, Rwanda and Namibia, who all score, currently, over 50 … And then, in terms of the very bottom of the table, there hasn’t been much change. We still have the likes of South Sudan, Somalia, right at the bottom, and significant declines from countries like Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau.”
But Muwoki says things may change, as the African Union and several key African leaders, notably the presidents of the two largest economies on the continent, Nigeria and South Africa, have recently made clean governance a pet issue.
The year 2017 also saw the fall of several regimes long accused of shady dealings.
No fewer than four heads of state accused of major financial crimes resigned in the past year: Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh, Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and, most recently, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma. A high-level corruption scandal also tainted the administration of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned earlier this month amid mounting anti-government protests.
But holdouts remain: The Democratic Republic of Congo’s entrenched, corruption-accused leader has repeatedly postponed elections, and the leaders of Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, and Cameroon have all long remained in power amid allegations of mismanagement. Corruption investigations continue into current and former officials across the continent.
Rays of hope
Zuma’s successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, has made fighting corruption his key issue. The multi-millionaire businessman, this week, called for top government officials to be audited, starting with himself. Several other African heads of state have done the same in recent years.
“Now, if there ever has been anything that many South Africans would like to have line of sight of, it is the lifestyle audit of their public representatives,” he said Tuesday. “Now that is something that I believe we have to do, and this will be done starting with the executive of the country, yes, we will go in that way,” Ramaphosa said.
And in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari recently announced that all national assets recovered in a recent anti-corruption drive would be sold to benefit the treasury. Buhari is also the chairman of the AU anti-corruption effort.
Muwoki says the global watchdog has noted these new developments, but urged citizens to keep up the pressure by shining light on suspected corruption.
“2018 marks a very important year for the continent,” she said. “We have seen this renewed commitment from the African Union and from leaders at the recent summit in Addis Ababa. It is encouraging and we definitely support this … these are some of the things that we would be encouraging civil society and media, and some of these other key stakeholders to hold these leaders to account.”