Generalizations about African societies being pervasively corrupt are refuted in this innovative paper. Among 25,397 Afrobarometer respondents in 18 countries, 26% report paying a bribe, while 74% do not. Five hypotheses offer explanations: institutional context, inequalities of socio-economic resources, social inclusion and exclusion, social and political capital, and conflicting norms. Multilevel statistical analysis identifies as most important: contextual differences in colonial legacies, ethnic politicization, service provision, press freedom, and having social or political capital. The analysis emphasizes studying behavior rather than perceptions of corruption and supports a public-policy focus on bribery as an exchange for specific public services.