In a speech delivered in front of thousands of Kenyans in Nairobi this week, President Barack Obama called on the African nation to “break the cycle” of corruption in government.
Bribery and a lack of transparency have long been a challenge to growth in Africa, where 80% of the population live on less than $2 a day. Obama called corruption Africa’s “biggest impediment to further growth” and urged Kenyans to hold “visible” trials to tackle the problem.
According to the 2014 survey by Transparency International, which tracks how corruption levels are perceived around the world, Kenya came 145th out of the 175 economies rated. But its poor performance paints a misleading picture of the continent as a whole. Thanks to solid and ever-improving performances from several African nations, the index shows that progress is being made across the region.
According to the data, Botswana scores 63 out of a possible 100, making it the least corrupt country in Africa. Even in global terms it’s a strong performance, since out of the 175 countries assessed around the world, two-thirds scored less than 50. (The higher a country’s number, the more transparent it is deemed to be.)
The index ranks a country according to the perception of corruption in its public sector. Corruption in this area traditionally leads to a host of unwanted social problems, from poorly equipped schools to rigged elections and a lack of trust in government.
The vast amount of money currently being lost through opaque practices poses a grave threat to the continent’s growth and development. The annual outflow of illicit finance in Africa – through trade mispricing, for instance – stands at around $60 billion, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. This is higher than any other developing region.
But despite the gloomy statistics, there are several African countries making huge strides towards achieving better transparency. As well as Botswana, three other African nations score above 50% on the index, putting them in the best-performing third worldwide: Cape Verde, Seychelles and Mauritius.
Cote d’Ivoire and Mali are two sub-Saharan countries that showed the most improvement between 2013 and 2014, while Lesotho, Namibia, Rwanda, Ghana, South Africa and Senegal round out the 10 countries perceived as the least corrupt in the region.
Here’s a list of the least corrupt countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It shows how national performances have been seen to improve or decline between 2013 and 2014:
Source: Transparency International
Author: Anna Bruce-Lockhart is an editor at the World Economic Forum.
Image: A trader weighs gold nuggets at an illegal mine-pit in Walungu territory of South-Kivu province near Bukavu, April 5, 2014. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe