Existing measures of corruption in Africa are predominantly perception-based and ignore the international dimension of corruption practices such as illicit financial outflows, according to the fourth Africa Governance Report.
The report titled, “Measuring Corruption in Africa: the international dimension matters,” was produced by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It was launched in Kigali last week.
The report argues that perception-based methods of measuring corruption remain inadequately developed and current indices on corruption do not present a reliable and full picture of the situation in Africa.
The report challenges the traditional notion of corruption as the “abuse of public office for private gain,” saying this places too much emphasis on public office and neglects corrupt tendencies prevalent in private and non-state sectors.
“Policymakers must understand the importance and implications of viewing corruption as a broader phenomenon where private agents share significant responsibility,” the report’s authors said.
Most indexes and reports only look at perceptions without looking at the entire corruption patterns where Western countries are implicated.
With the high levels of illicit financial flows from Africa, the report argues that there is need to look beyond the continent to establish the role of international players.
Eunice Ajambo, ECA economic affairs officer, said, for the continent to combat corruption, it is important to note that the vice is largely influenced by forces beyond Africa.
“To combat corruption, Africa needs good governance institutions and policies that are not exclusively domestic-oriented, since corruption in the continent is not exclusively the making of Africans,” she said.
The report calls for all stakeholders to rethink corruption measurements in general.
“Because decisions for investment and aid allocation are often based on information from corruption indices and rankings, African countries and partners need to focus on approaches to measuring corruption that are fact-based and built on more objective criteria,” the report reads in part.
Prof. Anastase Shyaka, the chief executive of Rwanda Governance Board, said with the existence of multiple indexes and think tanks trying to study aspects of the continent, often there are tendencies of biasness.
“There are a lot indexes and institutions trying to measure Africa. However some of their approaches and methods tend to be biased and fail to bring out the entire picture,” Shyaka said
However, UN resident coordinator Lamin Manneh said the perception indexes serve purpose to paint an overview on the state of corruption.
“In some instances you have to use perception indexes to put your finger on the problem. In some instances, there are weaknesses but it is a bit hard to measure precisely the entirety of corruption,” Manneh said.