No country gets close to a perfect score in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016. Over two-thirds of the 176 countries and territories in this year’s index fall below the midpoint of our scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The global average score is a paltry 43, indicating endemic corruption in a country’s public sector. Top-scoring countries (yellow in the map below) are far outnumbered by orange and red countries where citizens face the tangible impact of corruption on a daily basis.
More countries declined than improved in this year’s results, showing the urgent need for committed action to thwart corruption.
This year’s results highlight the connection between corruption and inequality, which feed off each other to create a vicious circle between corruption, unequal distribution of power in society, and unequal distribution of wealth.
The interplay of corruption and inequality also feeds populism. When traditional politicians fail to tackle corruption, people grow cynical. Increasingly, people are turning to populist leaders who promise to break the cycle of corruption and privilege. Yet this is likely to exacerbate – rather than resolve – the tensions that fed the populist surge in the first place.
In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity.”
~ José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International
The elections held across Africa in 2016 provide a good reflection of corruption trends in the region.
In countries like Ghana, which is the second worst decliner in the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index in the region, the dissatisfaction of citizens with the government’s corruption record was reflected in their voting at the polls. South Africa, which continues to stagnate this year, has witnessed the same. Joseph Kabila’s Democratic Republic of Congo and Yahya Jammeh’s Gambia, which both declined, demonstrate how electoral democracy is tremendously challenged in African countries because of corruption.
African leaders that come to office on an “anti-corruption ticket” will need to live up to their pledges to deliver corruption-free services to their citizens. They must implement their commitments to the principles of governance, democracy and human rights. This includes strengthening the institutions that hold their governments accountable, as well as the electoral systems that allow citizens to either re-elect them or freely choose an alternative.