African leaders have expressed their disapproval of the perception-based measures that have been used since the 1990s, to determine the level of corruption on the continent.
The leaders who were speaking at the just concluded African Development Week in Addis Ababa, agreed they need an ‘African’ means of measuring corruption that is representative of the region.
They argued that the current tools do not represent realities in Africa and are misguiding policymakers and investors.
In their fourth Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) African Governance Review report, the leaders argue that the corruption measurement indices are highly subjective and based on the opinions of elites. They are not suited for making country comparisons and ignore the international aspects of corruption.
"We are concerned that these existing perception-based and mixed indices measures of corruption are flawed," said Namibian Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein, at the launch of the Report titled, Measuring corruption in Africa: The international dimension matters.
There is a range of perception-based measures of corruption, such as Transparency International’s (TI) which has been consistently giving annual surveys on corruption perception in the world. Last year, for example, the well-known Corruption Perception Index, placed five African countries among the most corrupt globally.
TI compiles information from sources and surveys, which are used to determine a country’s perceived level of corruption, and rank countries alongside each other.
‘Naming’ and ‘shaming’ countries according to the African leaders can have a dire impact on development, sometimes negatively influencing aid allocations and foreign direct investment.
In her argument, Chantal Uwimana, Transparency International's regional director for Sub-Saharan Africa, said that the Corruption Perception Index was designed as an awareness tool and was never meant to be used for policymaking.
"It's really like criticizing a car for not flying," she said.
In reality, the African Union’s head of Anti-Corruption and Transparency Africa at the United Nations Global Compact Olajobi Makinwa said corruption is secretive thus making it even more challenging to collect precise data and report accurately.
"Generally, measuring corruption is fraught with difficulties. While perception-based measures don't work, objective data is difficult to attain as, by nature, corruption is secretive,” Mr Makinwa said.
Top on the agenda at the launch and also highlighted in the report was the international dimension of corruption in Africa. This has been in the spotlight since the release of the Report of the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa last year. According to the report, more than $50 billion was cited to be leaving the continent through illicit outflows.
The Measuring Corruption in Africa report makes a number of recommendations, both to improve the measurement of corruption as well as fighting the scourge. It called for transparency including the availability of procurement data.
The report also urged African governments to approve freedom of information laws, seek to further involve citizens in policymaking, and support free media.
The leaders noted the cross-border tendency of corruption networks and called for closer collaboration between nations and working closely with global partners to combat illicit financial outflows.
According to the Ugandan Finance Minister Fred Omach, "the issue of corruption, not only in Africa but the world, is like a cancer."
Corruption is commonly cited as one of the continent's key impediments towards achieving the goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063.
To fight it, countries should build strong institutions in order to combat corruption as well as work with international and regional organizations to uphold their anti-corruption regulations. Moreover, African states need to work closely with global partners to combat illicit financial outflows.
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