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Corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa

Introduction

Africa is widely considered among the world's most corrupt places, a factor seen as contributing to the stunted development and impoverishment of many African states. Of the ten countries considered most corrupt in the world, six are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Transparency International, a leading global watchdog on corruption. A 2002 African Union study estimated that corruption cost the continent roughly $150 billion a year. To compare, developed countries gave $22.5 billion in aid to sub-Saharan Africa in 2008, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Some economists argue that African governments need to fight corruption instead of relying on foreign aid. But anti-corruption efforts on the continent have shown mixed results in recent years, and analysts fear that major international partners are unwilling to exert leverage over African governments. An initiative for transparency in the extractive industries shows promise, but is mostly untested. Some experts suggest African interest in attracting foreign investment will serve to spur more substantive efforts to fight corruption.

African Efforts to Fight Corruption

Corruption in Africa ranges from high-level political graft on the scale of millions of dollars to low-level bribes to police officers or customs officials. While political graft imposes the largest direct financial cost on a country, petty bribes have a corrosive effect on basic institutions and undermine public trust in the government. Over half of East Africans polledpaid bribes to access public services that should have been freely available, according to the 2009 East African Bribery Index, compiled by Transparency International. Graft also increases the cost of doing business. Academic research shows that a one-point improvement in a country's Transparency International corruption score is correlated with a productivity increase equal to 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). "If you attack...

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