Skip to content
Key findings
  • While corruption ranks 11th among the most important problems that Africans want their governments to address, it is a high priority in some countries – and has climbed to No. 1 in Kenya and No. 3 in Botswana and Namibia.
  • On average across 39 countries, a majority (58%) of Africans say corruption increased “somewhat” or “a lot” in their country during the preceding year. o Compared to 2014/2015, 12 countries recorded double-digit increases in perceptions of worsening corruption, including a surge of 39 percentage points in Senegal, while decreases reached a remarkable 61 points in Benin. o More than two-thirds (68%) of citizens say “some” or “a lot” of the resources intended to address the COVID-19 pandemic were lost to corruption.
  • Almost half (46%) of Africans say that “most” or “all” police officials are corrupt, the worst rating among 11 institutions and leaders the survey asked about. Tax officials, civil servants, and officials in the Presidency tie for second-worst, at 38%.
  • Gabon, South Africa, Nigeria, Liberia, and Uganda are the worst-performing countries when it comes to perceived corruption in seven key public institutions, while Seychelles, Cabo Verde, Tanzania, and Mauritius turn in the best performances.
  • Among citizens who sought selected public services during the previous year, substantial proportions say they had to pay a bribe to obtain police assistance (36%), to avoid problems with the police (37%), to get a government document (31%), or to receive services at a public medical facility (20%) or a public school (19%). o Self-reported bribe-paying varies widely across countries. For example, obtaining a government document required a bribe from 68% of applicants in Congo Brazzaville, compared to 1% in Cabo Verde and Seychelles.
  • Two in three Africans (67%) say their government is doing a poor job of fighting corruption.
  • Only one in four Africans (26%) say people can report corruption to the authorities without fear of retaliation.

Corruption ranks among the greatest governance and development challenges confronting African countries. In the words of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (2016), “as both a product and cause of poor governance and weak institutions, corruption is one of the major costs and impediments to structural transformation in Africa.” Corruption not only wastes scarce public resources that could instead be used for public services and meaningful development, but also weakens democracy by eroding public trust in the government’s ability to act in the best interests of the citizenry (Transparency International, 2022; Mhaka, 2022). Election platforms often highlight eliminating corruption as a popular campaign promise, yet studies consistently rank Africa as the most corrupt region in the world (Mokgonyana, 2023). In the most recent Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), 44 of 49 African countries fall below the midpoint of the CPI scoring, with a sub-Saharan regional average of 32 out of 100 (Transparency International, 2022).  

Against this background, how do ordinary Africans perceive corruption trends and their government’s performance in fighting the corruption scourge? To what extent do ordinary citizens feel safe in reporting corruption when they encounter it?  

Findings from the most recent Afrobarometer surveys, conducted in 39 countries in 2021/2023, show that a majority of Africans say corruption increased in their country during the previous year, and most see little improvement in their government’s poor performance in addressing the problem. Among key public institutions, the police are most commonly seen as corrupt. Assessments vary widely by country, with Gabon, South Africa, Nigeria, Liberia, and Uganda registering some of the highest perceptions of official corruption. 

In significant numbers, citizens report having to pay bribes to access public services, and most say people risk retaliation if they report incidents of corruption to the authorities. 

For policy makers and civil society, these findings point to a need for renewed efforts to fight corruption and for improved strategies to increase citizens’ sense that they are safe in reporting corruption. 

Boniface Dulani

Boni is the director of surveys at Afrobarometer

Gildfred Boateng Asiamah

Gildfred Boateng Asiamah previously served as a research analyst at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana).

Patrick Zindikirani

Patrick Zindikirani is a student of law at the University of Malawi and a research associate at the Institute of Public Opinion and Research in Malawi