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Over half of all citizens surveyed in 35 African countries think corruption is getting worse in their country and that their government is doing a bad job tackling the problem, the tenth edition of Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Africa has revealed.

The report, which was released by Transparency International, is based on citizens’ views on bribery and other forms of corruption in Africa. Some 47,000 people (aged 18 years and above) were surveyed about their perceptions of corruption and direct experiences of bribery.

The GCB also found that more than one in four people who accessed public services, such as health care and education, paid a bribe in the preceding year. This equates to approximately 130 million citizens in the countries surveyed.

“This 10th edition of the Global Corruption Barometer – Africa shows that the range of corruption challenges that African citizens face is complex and multifaceted, requiring fundamental and systemic changes,” Managing Director of Transparency International, Patricia Moreira said in the report. 

Moreover, many African governments are failing to do enough, the study shows. Only one in three citizens (34 percent) thinks their government is doing a good job at fighting corruption, while 59 percent rate their government’s performance as bad in the fight against corruption. 

Moreira further explained that “while governments have a long way to go in regaining citizens’ trust and reducing corruption, these things don’t exist in a vacuum. Foreign bribery and money laundering divert critical resources away from public services, and ordinary citizens suffer most.”

Rightly so, the report finds that corruption disproportionately hits the most vulnerable people the hardest. In fact, the poorest people are twice as likely to pay a bribe as the richest people in Africa. Paying bribes for essential public services means poorer families have less money for basic necessities like food, water, and medicine.

“To reduce the heavy burden of corruption on ordinary people, African states that have not done so should ratify and effectively implement the African Union Convention to Prevent and Combat Corruption (AUCPCC),” Regional Advisor for East Africa at Transparency International, Paul Banoba advised.

Institutionally, the police are considered the most corrupt with 47 percent of people believing that most or all policemen are corrupt. Many citizens also think government officials and parliamentarians are highly corrupt, at 39 percent and 36 percent respectively. This perhaps is why two-thirds of citizens fear retaliation if they report corruption.

On a positive note, however, the GCB raises hope for positive change as more than half of people think that citizens can help stop corruption. Despite fears of retaliation, 53 percent of citizens surveyed think ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.

To reduce the rate of corruption, Transparency International urges governments to put anti-corruption commitments into practice. “Africans believe they can make a difference. Governments must allow them the space to do so. AUCPCC provisions on media freedom and civil society should be implemented across Africa,” Banoba added.

The report noted that while initiatives to tackle corruption in specific institutions, such as the police or parliament, are welcome, ultimately tackling corruption in Africa requires “a holistic, systemic approach, including measures taken outside of Africa.” 

Part of its recommendations to governments for fighting corruption includes ratifying, implementing and reporting on the AUCPCC; investigating, prosecuting and sanctioning all reported cases of corruption; developing minimum standards and guidelines for ethical procurement; adopting open contracting practices; and creating mechanisms to collect citizens’ complaints and strengthen whistleblower protections.

To address the issue of corrupt individuals who hide behind anonymous companies and stash their ill-gotten funds abroad, Transparency International suggested that national authorities establish public registers that name the owners of shell companies as well as adopt and enforce laws that address stolen assets.

In addition, business leaders and boards of companies, including multinational companies operating in Africa, should effectively and transparently implement the highest international anti-corruption and anti-money laundering standards.

The Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Africa, published by Transparency International in partnership with Afrobarometer, presents the largest, most detailed set of public opinion data on citizens’ views on corruption and direct experiences of bribery in Africa. 

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