Current methods used to gauge corruption in Africa are faulty because they ignore the international dimension of the vice, instead going for perception, a new African governance report notes.
The report titled, “Measuring corruption in Africa: The International Dimension Matters,” and prepared by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), notes that the continent loses more from corruption engaged in by multinational companies than from that by local small and medium enterprises.
It faults existing indicators for being highly subjective and based on the opinions of elites, making them unsuitable for making country comparisons.
“Many corrupt practices on the continent are generated and abetted by non-African players,” said ECA executive secretary Carlos Lopes. “The problem of measuring corruption in Africa needs deep reflection with special attention to the roles of international players.”
African countries, the report notes, are being named and shamed, but given the limitations of the measurement methodologies, no single indicator of corruption should be used.
The report notes that a number of indicators such as the Corruption Perceptions Index, World Governance Indicators, Ibrahim Index of African Governance and Afrobarometer, are influential because they have shaped foreign policy, investment decisions and aid allocation, as well as country risk analysis on the continent, but are not useful in helping countries stem corruption.
“They focus on country ranking (naming and shaming) and as such do not provide useful policy insights and practical recommendations to inform policy and institutional reforms to help African countries to stem corruption,” says the report.
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 criticising a car for not flying,” she said.
Olajobi Makinwa, head of Anti-Corruption and Transparency Africa at the United Nations Global Compact, said: “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 carried out secretively.
Adam Elhiraika, the director of the macro economic policy division of the ECA, says that most corruption in terms of scale is due to the activities of multinationals trade malpractices, money-laundering and profit-shifting— which are missed by existing assessments.
The report further notes that illicit financial flows are import elements of international corruption affecting the African continent. Such flows may originate from three broad types of activities: Commercial activities, criminal ones, and corruption.
Among the criminal activities that may give rise to illicit financial flows, of particular relevance in Africa are, “trafficking in people, drugs and arms and smuggling, as well as fraud in the financial sector, such as unauthorised and/or unsecured loans as well as money laundering,” says the report.