George Ayittey on Corruption In Africa in 2013

Fighting and Prevention Corruption in Africa: Progress Ten Years after the Adoption of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.

Arising out of the realization of the impact of corruption on good governance (accountability and transparency in the management of public affairs) and socio-economic development, African leaders adopted the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption on July 11, 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique in order to have a common and legally binding framework to tackle corruption and its effects on the continent. 

The Convention in this regard, has as its main objectives: the support and strengthening of mechanisms in African states to “prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption and related offences in the public and private sectors” and the establishment of “necessary conditions to foster transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs (Article 4 of the Convention). 

The “condemnation and rejection of acts of corruption and impunity and the respect “ for democratic principles and institutions, popular participation, the rule of law and good governance” are some of the Principles that informs the implementation of the Convention and the fight against corruption (Article 3).

Despite this Convention, latest reports on corruption in Africa show that the levels of corruption and its devastating impact on the poor especially, are still too high. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 of Transparency International released on December 3, 2013, indicates that Sub-Saharan countries still perform badly in relation to perception of corruption and that 90% of them score below the minimum level of clean and transparent governance (0 as highly corrupt and 100 as very clean).

Botswana is the only African country regarded as having a clean government with a score of 64 and a ranking of 30 whilst countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Somalia are deemed or perceived as being highly corrupt. Deterioration in the rule of law is regarded as one of Africa’s challenges in the fight against corruption according to Transparency International. This decline has also been confirmed by the Ibrahim Index of African Governance 2013 report, which indicates that only 43% of Africans live in countries where there have been overall improvements in governance since 2010.

According to the Africa Union, over 25% of the GDP of African states gets lost to corruption every year- over $148 billion. Zimbabwe is said to have lost $2 billion to corruption in 2012, whilst South Africa has lost more than $3 billion. A study by the African Development Bank and the Global Financial Integrity of May 2013 – Illicit Financial Flow and the Problem of Net Resource Transfer from Africa: 1980-2009 - shows that Africa has lost up to US$1.4 trillion in illicit transfers out of the continent between 1980 and 2009 and that Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt led the pack in this “illicit hemorrhage of Africa’s resources. 

Leaders like Gen Abacha of Nigeria and Khadafy of Libya took billions out of Africa from their countries. It is also worth pointing out that this year's Mo Ibrahim prize for good governance in Africa has not be awarded second year in a row, making it the fourth time in five years there has been no winner.

Ten years since the adoption of this Convention, 34 states out of 54 members states of the African Union have ratified the Convention and are meant to adhere to its provisions in the fight against corruption. The question to be asked, as African celebrate the tenth anniversary of this Convention on December 7, 2013, in Arusha, 

Tanzania (and the International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9) is whether this Convention has made any significant impact in the fight against corruption in Africa and what the next ten years hold in this regard. Broadcast on on Dec 7, 2013.


George Ayittey is a Ghanaian economist, author and president of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington DC. He is a professor at American University, and an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.


Tseliso Thipanyane & Wuyi Jacobs.