Botswana, Cape Verde ranked least corrupt in Africa but new report makes uncomfortable reading for continent

The 2014 Transparency International graft index has been released, and surprises in both the winners and laggards categories.

BOTSWANA is seen as the least corrupt country in sub-Saharan Africa, while conflict-wracked Somalia and South Sudan have their work cut out in clambering off the bottom, a new survey released Wednesday shows.  

This year’s corruption perception index, compiled by global anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, also showed surprise climbers and losers on the continent, while highlighting the disproportionate effect the theft of public funds has on the poor. 

Cote d’Ivoire and Mali were the most improved countries in sub-Saharan Africa, but while Rwanda ranked among the top ten least corrupt countries in the region, its leadership will be alarmed to note it was among the biggest sliders from last year’s ranking. 

This least corrupt tag is however relative, as is perception itself; only four countries—Botswana, Cape Verde, Seychelles and Mauritius—had a score of 50 or higher, backing Transparency International’s assertion that the overall global picture is one of alarm. 

The much-watched index places countries based on how corrupt its public sector is perceived to be. It then ranks them on a scale of 0-100, with the best performers having the highest scores, while those with a mountain to climb tend towards zero. 

The watchdog says that because corruption is typically hidden, hard data is hard to come by, informing its model of culling perceptions from authoritative sources such as the African Development Bank, the World Economic Forum and the World Bank. To further compact the results, it then combines existing surveys and assessments into a single index. 

This year some 175 countries were ranked. More than two-thirds of these scored less than 50, the highest possible score being 100.

“...economic growth is undermined and efforts to stop corruption fade when leaders and high level officials abuse power to appropriate public funds for personal gain,”  José Ugaz, the chair of Transparency International, said.

The effects of such corruption are all too visible, the group says, ranging from poorly-equipped schools to counterfeit medicine and cash-oiled elections, with the poor being the hardest hit. 

Lesotho, Namibia, Rwanda, Ghana, South Africa and Senegal round out the ten countries perceived as the least corrupt in sub-Saharan Africa, but policy makers in these countries will still be concerned over their low overall scores. 

Due to the debilitating effect of corruption on economic growth, regional giants Angola, Kenya and Nigeria will be concerned by their low placing on the index, with the latter two already licking their wounds following a bruising year of battling with terror groups. (Read: What really troubles Africa’s big nations - and it’s not traffic or power cuts)

Rwanda, recognised as a star performer regionally on the governance front, will also be alarmed by its four-position slide from last year, joining Angola and Malawi as the biggest rank decliners since 2013. 

Of the best shows, Cote d’Ivoire, a major economic hub in West Africa that is headed for an election year will be buoyed by a four-place leap, further cementing its gains following a disastrous conflict that followed a disputed election in 2011. 

Mali has also made gains as it continues its recovery from a civil war that saw the country nearly split into two, joining surprise package Swaziland which pressure groups regularly target for perceived high-level graft.  

The index has been compiled since 1985, but to help ward off concerns over replication of other existing corruption surveys it two years ago instituted a review of its methodology. 

Among the outcomes of this is that the index now helps better differentiate between clusters of countries having the same score, while also helping reduce variations between many of its source data. 

In North Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Algeria were perceived as the least corrupt, a restive region propped by Libya and which has since 2011 struggled to right itself following a tumultuous revolution.  

Overall, Denmark, with a score of 92 from a possible 100, is seen as the least corrupt country. with New Zealand, Finland, Sweden and Norway filling out the five leading countries. 

Transparency International says that such well-performing countries must play their role in stopping the worst performers from getting away with corruption. 

“Countries at the bottom need to adopt radical anti-corruption measures in favour of their people. Countries at the top of the index should make sure they don’t export corrupt practices to underdeveloped countries,” Ugaz added.

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