Preventing and Fighting Corruption in Africa

Ben Rachad Sanoussi
May 26, 2022

10 min read

Corruption hurts the functioning of democratic institutions in Africa. It is a threat to the governance and stability of young and often fragile democracies. Shockingly, corruption continues to undermine the legitimacy of governments and democratic values and weakens the state. In this article, particular attention is given to the situation in Africa and to actions taken at different levels to fight and prevent corruption. The most comprehensive frameworks for dealing with the problem of corruption at the global level are also summarized.

Practically, these frameworks will have to be adjusted to individual country contexts for maximum output. The paper also proposed recommendations in this direction. Anti-corruption must go hand in hand with strengthening the rule of law and good governance and building strong institutions which, in turn, are the basis for human development.

Corruption is the perversion or misuse of a process or interaction with one or more persons to obtain particular advantages or prerogatives or, in the case of the corrupted, to obtain retribution in return for his or her indulgence. It generally leads to the personal enrichment of the corrupted person or the enrichment of the corrupting organization (mafia group, company, club, etc.). It is a practice that can be considered illicit depending on the field considered (trade, business, politics…) but whose specificity is precisely to act in such a way as to make it impossible to detect or denounce it.

According to Transparency International’s views in (What Is Corruption?, n.d.), corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. In other words, it is an abuse of delegated power for private purposes. It is the abuse of power for personal gain. Transparency International is a global movement with a single goal: a world free of corruption in government, business, civil society, and people’s daily lives. For the World Bank Group (Combating Corruption, n.d.), it is the use of one’s position as head of public service for personal gain. They consider corruption as a major obstacle to achieving its dual goals of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 and increasing shared prosperity for the poorest 40% of people in developing nations. Furthermore, according to (Pring & Vrushi, 2019) in the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB)[1] – Africa, corruption hinders Africa’s economic, political and social development. It is a major barrier to economic growth, good governance and basic freedoms, such as freedom of speech or citizens’ right to hold governments to account.

Corruption is harmful because it impedes economic growth and development, undermines citizens’ confidence in the legitimacy and transparency of institutions and hinders the adoption of fair and effective laws, the administration and enforcement of laws and the work of the courts.

This is a phenomenon that affects all countries. No State is immune to it, regardless of its economic or social level. Cases of corruption appear regularly in the press of our countries. Its forms and scope may vary from one country to another. Some societies are more affected than others, but one only has to read the statistics of Transparency International (Pring & Vrushi, 2019) to realize that it exists everywhere. But what are the causes of this bad practice?

Corruption has several causes including poor governance, lack of transparency and accountability, lack of press freedom, lack of any preventive anti-corruption policy and lack of awareness of the importance of issues such as professional ethics, conflicts of interest, low salaries, etc. In Africa, corruption has long appeared as a black hole that absorbs the energy of matter. For (Lawal, 2007), the endemic presence of corruption must be dealt with if Africa is to be saved from this infection.

The Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Africa, published by Transparency International after their survey in 34 countries between 2016 and 2018 shows that more than half of all citizens (55%) believe that corruption has increased. Only 23% believe it has declined. When it comes to curbing corruption, people’s experiences differ, and some services are better than others. According to the same report, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the highest overall corruption rate (80%), followed by Liberia (53%), Sierra Leone (52%), Cameroon (48%), and Uganda (46%).

Despite having unrivaled natural wealth, including oil, gas, and mineral deposits, the DRC remains one of the poorest countries on the planet. Insecurity, violence, and inadequate natural resource management have all impeded the country’s progress. Because public services are underfunded and poorly managed, combating corruption is extremely difficult. As in many African countries, corruption is rampant in Benin and public sector scandals hamper development initiatives (Adoun & Awoudo, 2008, 2015).

Furthermore, many governments are not doing enough to combat corruption. Still, in the 1980s, the conceptualization and denunciation of many symptoms of corruption, such as embezzlement or capital flight, were unthinkable. How can we fight against this phenomenon?

Some Tools in Place to Fight Corruption

Aware of the need to address the root causes of corruption on the continent, several organizations and associations are involved in the fight against corruption. International and donor-led development programs, such as The Paris Declaration (Fyson, 2012; OECD, 2005), emphasize reducing corruption, strengthening decision-making, and assessing aid effectiveness.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is doing a lot to fight corruption. The OECD is in fact, an international organization for economic studies, whose member countries share a democratic system of government and a market economy. It is at the forefront of the fight against corruption. In 1996 it created the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (D’Souza, 2012; Spahn, 2013), which was adopted in 1997. The Council of Europe, founded in 1949 and based in Strasbourg, has also been involved in the fight against corruption carrying out several activities (De Vel & Csonka, 2000).

The fight against corruption at the national and international levels continues to be a subject of great importance for the United Nations and its Member States, as intolerance towards corruption is increasing worldwide. Accordingly, the African Union[2] has established a Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (Union, 2003). Indeed, the member states of the African Union have agreed on 28 articles regarding corruption. This Convention was adopted by the 2nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union in Maputo on 11 July 2003. Various commendable regulatory instruments have been put in place and different institutions have been created to fight corruption in Africa.

Despite this, corruption hinders the development of African economies. 148 billion: that is what corruption costs African countries each year, according to Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) (Bank, 2019; La Corruption Freine Le Développement Des Économies Africaines, n.d.). Compared, for example, to the total cost of annual energy transport in Africa, which amounts to 55 billion dollars, the sum leaves one wondering. According to Transparency International, which ranks the continent’s countries among the last in terms of financial transparency in its 2018 Index (2018 Corruption Perceptions Index – Explore The… – Transparency.Org, n.d.), gambling would cut African states by 25% of their wealth each year. The effects of corruption, due in large part to a large amount of cash being exchanged in Africa, can, unfortunately, be more than just economic.

Once an agreement has been reached with the relevant authorities, companies make sure that the money is recovered by providing services at a lower cost. Thus, for example, claustrophobic infrastructure poses a serious risk to citizens. It is not surprising that 83% of the deaths due to collapsed buildings in earthquakes over the last 30 years have occurred in countries where corruption is rife, Transparency International states very clearly (Pring & Vrushi, 2019).

The challenge, however, remains the commitment to an institutional approach to fighting corruption on the one hand and bridging the gap between standard-setting and implementation through appropriate policies at local, national, regional and continental levels on the other.

Results and Discussions

Corruption is a phenomenon that affects every citizen. Whether you are a small or a large company, or whether you work in public service, whether you are an employer or self-employed, poor or rich, you are affected by corruption, directly or indirectly, because its costs are borne by society as a whole. All parts of society, therefore, have an interest in containing this phenomenon and must share responsibility for it. Corruption should never be seen as an inescapable fact of life.

We can and should all take part in promoting a culture of transparency, integrity and accountability. Diverting public resources for private gain and reducing access to public services, runs counter to the basic interests of every society and represents a threat to economic development and social stability. But corruption is far more damaging to the poor and undermines efforts to achieve poverty (Akakpo, 2006; Bakre, 2006) eradication and human development by reducing access to services and diverting resources away from investment in infrastructure, education and social services.

Development programmes should take into account the link between development and organized crime and anti-corruption measures should be duly taken into account in development activities. In addition to legal procedures based on effective anti-corruption provisions in criminal law, parliamentary committees of inquiry can help to highlight the political responsibilities implicating the government in allegations of corruption.

The private sector plays a crucial role as a key actor in this fight. Anti-corruption laws need to be better enforced at all levels of society and to promote the rule of law in order to work for the public good.

Corruption harms the functioning of democratic institutions in Africa. It is a threat to the governance and stability of young and often fragile democracies. It undermines the legitimacy of government and democratic values and weakens the state as it undermines its credibility and undermines people’s confidence in public institutions. The fight against corruption must therefore go hand in hand with the strengthening of the rule of law and good governance and the establishment of strong institutions which, in turn, are the basis for human development.

It is important to advance programmes to prevent and combat corruption. Leaders must demonstrate political will and give visibility to this issue. It is also important that this emphasis be backed by technical know-how, appropriate regulations and constant efforts. There is a need to continue to carry out diagnostics to understand the root causes of corruption in each country and to assess both the progress made and the reasons for the failure of certain initiatives.

Indeed, there is a lack of a regulatory framework on the part of the judiciary, ministries of education, platform developers, the information technology (IT) industry and policymakers that involves all stakeholders in the prevention and fight against corruption to address the need for a common strategy for adopting standards to ensure a corruption-free Africa.

To meet these challenges, we need an approach, a robust investigation and sanctions framework within the African Union that can detect fraud or corruption in its projects and act firmly to exclude perpetrators. Collaboration among all stakeholders is essential to design effective policies by involving institutions, the private sector, health and education professionals and the states themselves.

These stakeholders include institutions, associations, governments, educators, professionals in ministries of education, lawyers, information and communication technology (ICT) professionals, students, governments, parliaments, psychologists and especially young people. This strategy should take into account different cultural contexts and promote safe and secure development. Also, information and communication technologies can help us to perform some of the most burdensome tasks and thus provide us with new means of fighting corruption since the success of transparency efforts also depends on mastering the culture of data. When these different data are ordered, classified and prioritized, they become information. And information is power.

Also, we can use internet censorship, including blocking the websites of independent media and civil society organizations that expose corruption, abuse of power and human rights violations in undemocratic countries.

Furthermore, education is the foundation of a nation’s development. It is therefore essential to stress that it all starts with the culture of anti-corruption, where primary and secondary schools provide practical knowledge on how to fight corruption. We need to advocate for the inclusion of information on preventing and fighting corruption in the curriculum, make children aware of the importance of sacrifice in the fight against corruption and encourage them to share in that fight.

The capacity of countries to understand and use information effectively must therefore be strengthened. For instance, the capabilities of artificial intelligence can be exploited to detect hidden patterns and risks in procurement data.

Continuing to organize awareness-raising activities around the eradication of this malpractice would help to address these issues. The fact that hard work turns directly into happiness for others is more rewarding for me than anything else.


The development of African economies is increasingly hampered by corruption. However it is important to note that over the past decades, the fight against corruption has been the subject of increasing interest and effort by stakeholders. However, much remains to be done and the challenge is to commit to an institutional approach that takes into account the aspirations of young people to fight corruption on the one hand and to bridge the gap between setting and implementing standards through appropriate policies at local, national, regional and continental levels on the other hand, without forgetting to hold perpetrators accountable.

This fight against corruption can never be understood and effectively addressed without the necessary attention to the voices of today’s youth. No solution to corruption can be sustainable, scalable and effective in terms of intergenerational progress, without the participation of those who will be the recipients of these same solutions. ICT will continue to help advance anti-corruption and prevention programmes to carry out the heavy lifting, thus providing us with new means to fight corruption, as successful transparency efforts also rely on mastering data literacy.

Maintaining a strong rule of law does not happen automatically. It is a daily challenge. Every day, we are all called upon to promote the rule of law in our activities. This is not always easy, especially in difficult economic times.


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[1] 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. [2] A continental organization established in 2002 to which the Member States that make up the countries of the African continent have acceded