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Key findings
  • Almost half of Gambians (46%) perceive a decrease in corruption over the past year, but one-third (32%) say the level of corruption in the country has increased.
  • More than half (54%) of Gambians say the government is doing “fairly well” or “very well” in fighting corruption.
  • Two-thirds (66%) think ordinary citizens can make a difference in fighting corruption, and six in 10 (58%) say they can report corruption incidents without fear of retaliation.
  • A majority (55%) say it is “somewhat likely” or “very likely” that authorities will take action when incidents of corruption are reported.
  • Large majorities of Gambians say the rich are more likely than ordinary persons to get away with paying a bribe or using personal connections to avoid taxes (71%), avoid going to court (75%), and register land that’s not theirs (74%).

The Gambia ranks 130th out of 180 countries and territories in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (2017), an improvement from 145th in 2016. High-profile corruption convictions in the past have included those of a former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, inspector general of the police, justice minister, and president of the Gambia Court of Appeal (U.S. Department of State, 2014).

But while the country has signed and ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offences as well as the United Nations Anticorruption Convention, its anti-corruption laws are regarded as a work in progress. The U.S. Department of State (2018) describes them as “largely ineffective because the committees which are commissioned to enforce them are yet to be fully established,” while the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (2017) says it is working to support “Gambian efforts to draft and adopt anti-corruption … legislation in line with international standards and best practices.”

In 2017, President Adama Barrow established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the financial dealings of his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, and his family and associates (Jobe, 2017). And in his State of the Nation address in September 2018, Barrow told Gambians that his government is committed to fighting corruption and would soon submit a bill creating an Anti-Corruption Commission and providing for measures to stamp out graft (APA News, 2018).

However, recent allegations of corruption involving the first lady’s foundation have raised questions about whether the administration is serious about tackling corrupt practices (Fatu Network, 2018; Freedom Newspaper, 2018).

Afrobarometer’s maiden national survey in the Gambia shows that more citizens see corruption decreasing than increasing, and a majority think the government is performing well in the fight against corruption. A majority of Gambians believe that ordinary citizens can make a difference and can report corruption without fear of retaliation, and that officials are likely to take action when incidents of corruption are reported.

Ensa Kujabie

Ensa Kujabie is Afrobarometer research assistant for the Center for Policy, Research and Strategic Studies at the University of the Gambia.