The infographic visualizes the top 10 most corrupt countries in Africa. It is based on the Corruption Perception Index 2021 published by Transparency International.
Who Is Transparency International and How It Calculates CPI
Transparency International is an international non-governmental association headquartered in Germany. It aims to stop corruption and promote transparency, accountability and integrity at all levels and across all sectors of society. Its activities include researches to assess corruption around the world. The Corruption Perception Index is one of its notable reports, ranking 180 countries by levels of corruption.
Transparency International calculates the CPI using various sources such as country experts and business people. The CPI gives a score of 0 – 100 to each country and region based on their perceived level of corruption in the public sector.
A Glance at the CPI 2021
The CPI 2021 used 13 different data sources from 12 different institutions to calculate the score.
In 2021, the average score of the 180 countries was 43, with 100 being very clean and 0 highly corrupt. Two thirds of the countries scored below 50. Denmark, Finland, and New Zealand achieved the highest score of 88. On the other hand, South Sudan sank at the bottom of the list, with a score of 11.
The report divides the world into 6 regions: Americas, Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Sahara Africa, and Western Europe and EU. Western Europe and EU was the least corrupt region with an average score of 66. On the other hand, Sub-Sahara Africa was the most corrupt region, scoring 33 on average.
The Top 10 Most Corrupt Countries in Africa
The below is the 10 most corrupt countries in 54 countries of the African Union, with a brief description of their political climate.
180th: South Sudan | Scored 11
South Sudan is one of the youngest countries in the world, gaining independence from Sudan in 2011. Before the partition, Sudan fought decades-long civil wars after Anglo-Egyptian occupation came to an end in 1956.
Decades of wars not only killed millions of civilians, but also destroyed basic infrastructures. As a result, famine, disease, and violence still prevail in the region. Corruption, from looting of food aid to paying bribes to public officers, hallmarks South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis.
178th: Somalia | Scored 13
Located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia is a country at war for the last three decades. The country gained independence in 1960, combining two former European colonies: Italian Somaliland to the south and British Somaliland to the north.
Ever since its foundation, Somalia underwent political difficulties. A military coup d’état in 1969, outbreak of the Ogaden War against Ethiopia in 1977, resistance movements in the 1980s—these incidents were ultimately a prelude to the civil war that is still going on today.
172th: Libya | Scored 17
This oil-rich country in the Maghreb region in North Africa just came out of the war on 23rd October 2020. Its straight borders indicate the country experienced European colonization—Italy, and later France occupied and governed the region until 1951. As is often the case, chaos followed the independence.
Libya first declared its independence as a British-backed kingdom. However, foreign-backed kingdoms usually don’t end well—an Arab nationalist military officer Muammar Gaddafi launched a military coup d’état in 1969. He promoted Islamic socialism, reducing the Western influence from Libya. Much of the country’s income went into building weapons including nuclear, which threatened the West.
In 2011, NATO bombing campaign finally captured Gaddafi—in the wake of the Arab Spring, anti-Gaddafi movements were rampant. Unfortunately, the death of the “dictator” opened up a civil war; terrorism increased; political instability and corruption swirl in the country.
172th: Equatorial Guinea | Scored 17
At the west coast of Central Africa, this country consists of a mainland and five small islands. The former Portuguese sugarcane plantation and the former Spanish colony leased to Britain won the independence in 1968.
Equatorial Guinea discovered oil reserves in the 1990s. While the country is the key producer of oil and natural gas in Africa, 70% of the population still live in poverty. Despite the country’s lucrative oil revenues, ordinary people of Equatorial Guinea struggle. Ruling elite’s corruption lets them pile up wealth, while ordinary people suffer from diseases such as HIV and malaria due to the lack of government’s funding to health and education.
169th: Democratic Republic of the Congo | Scored 19
This Central African country is the second largest country in Africa after Algeria and the 11th largest in the world by area. Its land on the Congo Basin was under the rule of Kingdom of Kongo and several other kingdoms until around the 15th century when Portuguese conquered the region. In the 19th century, European colonial powers divided the Congo Basin into three colonies: the Congo Free State under Belgium, the French Congo and the Portuguese Congo. The Congo Free State gained independence in 1960 from Belgium as the Republic of Congo. The country experienced transition of power and changed the name several times before forming today’s DRC.
The DRC is extremely rich in natural resources—cobalt ore, copper, diamonds, gold, and manganese are among its natural endowments. Despite its potential to be a wealthy country, decades or even centuries of political instability created only conflicts, poverty and corruption.
169th: Burundi | Scored 19
The history of this landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region in East Africa may date back to the 16th century when Kingdom of Burundi came to an existence. The kingdom ruled over two ethnic groups: Hutu and Tutsi. In the 19th century, the kingdom became part of German East Africa. The European invasion brought fatal diseases into the region, causing population decline due to diseases and famine. During the World War I, Belgium occupied the German Territory, Burundi and Rwanda.
On 1st July 1962, Burundi became independent—but the independence opened up ethnical divisions in Burundi. A series of civil wars and genocides between Hutu and Tutsi continued for the following decades. The failure in governance ruined the country’s system, allowing corruption to thrive.
Burundi has the lowest Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in the world—only US$230, compared to the world’s average of US$11,077.
164th: Chad | Scored 20
The landlocked country in North and Central Africa is a former French colony, becoming independent in 1960. After the independence was a period of decades-long civil wars including the Chadian-Libyan civil war. Bitter conflicts and clashes continue until today, while the president’s power continues to expand.
In April 2021, the President Idriss Déby died while commanding operations against rebels in the north of Chad. The fact that he had been the President of Chad since 1990 proves the level of the endemic corruption. Additionally, after his death, his son Mahamat Idriss Déby took the power as the acting President of Chad.
164th: Sudan | Scored 20
The deadly military coups that took place in this Northeast African country in October and November 2021 are still fresh in memory. The region along the Nile River is historically called Nubia and is a birthplace of one of the oldest civilizations in Africa. Over the course of history, various kingdoms flourished in the region, from Christian to Islamic ones. With this underlying condition, British “divide and rule” policy under Anglo-Egyptian Sudan sowed the seeds of conflict. By the time the region achieved independence in 1956, there was enough tension between the Muslim Arab-majority north and Christian Black-African-majority south.
The country has experienced decades of civil war and multiple coups ever since the independence. In 2011, South Sudan separated from Sudan. Amid the political chaos created by the military coups, violence between armed groups has been on the rise.
164th: Comoros | Scored 20
Comoros is an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Indian Ocean. This former French colony declared independence in 1975. Unfortunately, the independence made this scenic archipelago “the coup-coup islands.” Since its independence, the country experienced more than 20 coups and attempted coups. Four of them were successful; four of them were aided by France. Violence peaked in 2008 when the Comoran troops invaded Anjouan, an autonomous island of the Comoros union. The African Union including Sudan, Tanzania, Senegal, and Libya, and France supported this invasion.
The volatile political history has made room for systematic corruption. Meanwhile, 31 out of 100 children in Comoros suffer from impaired growth and development due to chronic malnutrition.
162th: Guinea Bissau | Scored 21
The last country in our list is one of the smallest countries in Africa that consists of low-plateaus, 18 islands and a number of islets on the Atlantic Ocean. There used to exist several kingdoms in this West African region until the 16th century when Portuguese colonized them as Portuguese Guinea. Portuguese Guinea fought a deadly independence war from 1963 to 1974 and finally won independence in September 1974.
Since the independence, the country is politically highly instable—military coups, a presidential assassination, and a civil war tore the country apart. The latest attempted coup took place in 2022 which killed two presidential guard members.
Summing up: Most Corrupt Countries in Africa
Do you have to pay a bribe to get medication or a birth certificate? Do criminals pay off police officers and judges in your country? Does your President always stay in power for decades and is their governance almost a family dynasty? Are politicians of your country “Mr. 10%“? If not, you are lucky enough.
In these most corrupt countries in Africa or elsewhere in the world, corruption overwhelms the society. From day-to-day bribery to massive looting, corruption deprives ordinary people of basic access to health, education, security, and opportunities. Naturally, the corruption makes these deprived countries among the least prosperous countries.
Now the important question is: why are these countries corrupt? Are some groups of people more corrupt than others by nature? Are these people born corrupt? Or, are certain attributes, such as religion or ethnicity, more prone to corruption than others?—A BIG NO, because these countries had once prospered as sophisticated kingdoms, giving birth to some of the earliest civilizations.
Arguably, the top 10 most corrupt countries in Africa share the similar history: the European colonization. The imperialism “Divide and Rule” policy created antagonism between tribes and ethnic groups, that, otherwise had lived in harmony for centuries. Even after the independence, political supremacy of one group over others often triggers separatists violence and civil wars. Former colonialism countries must not close eyes to the fact that the legacy of imperialism is still alive in former colonies.