Corruption in Africa

Corruption in Africa


According to Transparency International (2015, par. 3), Corruption in Africa is on the rise with research showing that 83 percent of the citizens in South Africa has seen its increase in the recent. Despite the continent being the riches in natural resources, the countries are underdeveloped with poverty loaming amongst the citizens. It shows how corruption is deep and occurring amongst the political leaders who are in control of those natural resources. The problem in Africa is enormous that people have taken it as the norm and are no longer worried when they find that a particular political leader is stealing from public funds. This study analyzes the sources of corruption in contemporary African politics to understand how it is confined in the political sphere and why it is hard to control it.

Sources of corruption in Africa

Weak institutions as a source of corruption

Corruption has spread and increased in Africa to become a norm because of the weak institutions which are supposed to watch actions and characters of the political leaders. Such institutions include the judiciary, opposition parties, anticorruption commissions, churches, police force among others (Sandra, 2016, 3033). Most of the African presidents and ruling political parties like in Nigeria, and Angola controls such institutions such that they cannot execute their roles like arresting, prosecuting and reporting corrupt leaders. The political leaders with the powers to change the constitution have been altering it to fit themselves so that no institution can reach them.  Although the political leaders weaken the institutions so that they can propagate corruption, the primary source is the European imperialism into Africa that is affecting contemporary politics.

Most of the European countries which colonized those in Africa instituted weak institutions and system of governance which controls bodies meant to fight corruption and therefore, weak laws on corruption (Kelly, 2014, 2). The malfunctions in the political, social and economic disciplines in Africa today have their origins in state building after the independence. The European nations left behind a legacy of political institutions which the African leaders have copied (Kelly, 2014, 2). The argument is evident in most of the countries from South Africa to Kenya with British colonies where they have embraced the parliamentary system of democracy as well as in judicial systems. Most of those systems do not merge with the culture of African people.

Angola serves as a case where the political system brought by the colonizers has failed to merge with the dynamics of the country leading to weak laws and institutions fighting corruption. The media, judicially, opposition parties and military did not have the power to parade fraudulence carried out by the former President Eduardo dos Santos (Amadi & Ekekwe, 2014, 166). Although the country elects leaders in a fair election, the political system is far from democracy and the leaders exhibit an authoritarian regime. The governing system allows leaders to make changes and laws within any institution.  The government institutions, which are supposed to serve the country benefits a few people including the elite, military and the president (Amadi & Ekekwe, 2014, 168). The government and a few elite people shape the institutions to protect them as they pocket most of the revenue collected from the oil field, the primary source of income in the country. On the other hand, because of the threats from the authoritarian government, the institutions obey and sides with the president to avoid losing their jobs (Amadi & Ekekwe, 2014, 166). All those mechanisms are meant to prevent any question from the citizens why the government is not serving their interests.

Greed and self-interest

Self-interest is another source of corruption in most of the African political leaders. The leaders aim at enriching themselves and not even those who are immediately next to them. Several presidents in African countries are reported to use public money to buy land, build, go for non-business trips among others. In most cases, the leaders do not involve their deputies creating a wider gap between the wealth they hold. This gap reveals how selfish they are because were it not so, they would have included their supporters in the deals. South African President Jacob Zuma case provides evidence of greed nature of most of the African leaders. According to Time (2016, par 3), the president used the public funds to create a unique resident with upgraded security. Description of the resident constituents shows that that greed drives the president to steal taxpayers’ money leaving them in vast poverty (Stevens & Newenham-Kahindi, 2018, 4). There are over 783 corruption cases which the court is holding against the president with very few people implicated together. It means that the president does not involve other people in most of the corruption deals further revealing selfish character.

Natural resources as a source of corruption

Most of the African countries like Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, Ghana, Sudan, Cameron, and Congo are rich in mineral resources. Africa has vast natural resources accounting for 30 percent among all continents. When a proper survey is done, such countries with substantial natural resources have corrupt leaders. The natural resources have created greed in the political leaders leading to corruption (Amadi & Ekekwe, 2014, 166). Angola case serves as an excellent example of how natural resources have contributed to corruption in Africa. According to Amadi & Ekekwe (2014, 166), the country lost over $ 4 billion in revenues in the hands of politicians from 1997 to 2002. Reports indicate that the leaders in the country have built complex private places despite their meager earnings which cannot meet the cost. The massive oil field and production is further the source of the 40 years’ war in the country fighting for control to leap through corruption. Natural resource propagates corruption because the government controls them and therefore, can direct part of the fund towards themselves.

corruption culture

Political corruption in Africa and individual countries appears to be an acceptable norm in the 21st century that nobody gets surprised when a political leader steals from public funds. In light of that statement, it is good to add that the society values those corrupt leaders more than the humble who have low voices as they fight unending corruption (Pillay & Kluvers, 2014, 101). Most citizens are no longer sensitive about it but looking forward to meeting their political leaders give them the little coins they offer. Politicians have eroded the sensitive culture that was in Africans. Africans are known to punish lawbreakers even at community levels and curse them through the spirit of their ancestors to safeguard their properties and catch and punish wrong actions. However, that sensitivity to wrongdoers is no longer there. Uslaner (2015, 120) comments that people know that there is money in Nigeria, but they will benefit when God comes to their aid. The statement shows that Africans have accepted corruption in the political sphere as a culture instead by the leaders leading to its widespread.

Barriers to end corruption in Africa

Weak institutions

Most of the institutions are weak to fight fraudulence leading to continued increase. As discussed previously, the system of governance which African countries adopted from the colonizers makes the political leaders very powerful who in turn withdraw all powers the various institutions have. The executive for example in Nigeria controls the judiciary (Kelly 9). It, therefore, means that the institution cannot prosecute the leaders who are within the circles of the president. The same situation was in Angola during the time of the former president Eduardo dos Santos. Santos ensured that the military did not have power over the presidency (Kelly 2). Also, the president weakened the opposition party and the media which would help to expose corruption deals in the executive. The culture of weak institutions spreads in the whole of Africa with evidence on how most have changed the constitution to rule for more years.

Corrupt institutions

The institutions which are supposed to protect the nations in Africa against corrupt leaders have also become corrupt making it hard to control political corruption. Two reasons are leading to corrupt institutions in Africa. Those who hold the offices in such institutions such as the judiciary loses hope of fighting corruption because of weak powers which can help them carry out their duties. As discussed above, the leaders in African countries like Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa diffuses the powers from those anti-corruption institutions so that they can have the freedom to propagate the undesired act of stealing from the public (Epaphra & Massawe 444). The office holders have therefore joined the political leaders in corruption making it hard to carry out their duties. Another reason why the institutions have become corrupt is because of the incentives they receive from the government to hide the cases (Kelly 2). Corrupt institutions, therefore, have made leaders to propagate the public robbery without fear in Africa freely.

Corruption culture

The corruption culture installed in the minds of the Africans by the leaders is also a barrier to end corruption. The citizens are no longer concerned with corruption cases because the leaders have shown them that those who steal more are the best to help them fight poverty (Pillay & Kluvers 101). The leaders with corrupt money are the most loved ones without caring where they obtained them. Africans prefer cash they get from such leaders other than waiting for the government to take development at the community level which will take years and does not address their poverty directly.


In conclusion, corruption in Africa is moving towards uncontrollable stage because of the rate at which citizens have become insensitive with the issue. The political leaders have used their skills to change the African culture in different countries where people are embracing corruption as a way of solving their poverty. Most of the corrupt leaders are getting their power to bribery from the vast natural resources in their countries and weak institutions. The natural resources have brought greed in the leaders who take advantage of the control over natural resources. Corruption amongst political leaders, therefore, is very high and does not seem to have a solution shortly.



References List

Time, 2016. These 5 Cases Explain the State of Global Corruption. [Online] Available at:  [ Accessed 15 Mar. 2019]

Transparency International, 2015. Corruption in Africa: 75 Million People Pay Bribes. [Online] Available at: [ Accessed 15 Mar. 2019]

Kelly, R. M., 2014. Corruption in Africa: cultural, economic and political factors which impact corruption and potential solutions (Doctoral dissertation, Rutgers University-Camden Graduate School).

Amadi, L., & Ekekwe, E., 2014. Corruption and development administration in Africa: Institutional approach. African Journal of Political Science and International Relations8(6), 163-174.

Epaphra, M., & Massawe, J., 2017. Corruption, governance and tax revenues in Africa. Business and Economic Horizons, (4), 439.

Stevens, C. E., & Newenham-Kahindi, A., 2018. Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution? Mnes, Fdi, and the Cycle of Corruption in Africa. Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings, 2018(1), 1–6.

Pillay, S., & Kluvers, R., 2014. An Institutional Theory Perspective on Corruption: The Case of a Developing Democracy. Financial Accountability & Management, 30(1), 95–119.

Sandra, S., 2016. Corruption, Trade Costs, and Gains from Tariff Liberalization: Evidence from Southern Africa. The American Economic Review, 106(10), 3029.