The Cost of Corruption to Development in Africa

Corruption has become part and parcel of daily life and is tolerated, accepted, and institutionalized

By Ramson Chidembo

Mother Africa is the richest continent in the world but she remains the world’s number one underdeveloped society. One of the major problems confronting Africa’s development is corruption.

Corruption is one of the most dangerous social ills of any society, which like a deadly virus, attacks the vital structures and obstructs society’s progressive functioning, thus putting its very existence into serious peril (Gire, 1999).

The effect of corruption varies, depending on country conditions, but most obvious in Africa no country is immune from corruption.

Despite being a major problem in Africa and in the world, definition, causes, extent measurement, location, impact, how to combat it continue to generate debates


  1. Traditionally, corruption refers to moral impurity.
  2. The word itself derives from the Latin word corruptus , meaning ‘ to spoil , pollute , abuse , or destroy ’, depending on the context.
  3. “The intentional Mister dormancy or neglect of a recognized duty, or the unwarranted exercise of power, with the motive of gaining some advantage more or less directly personal”(Brooks, 1910: 46)
  4. “The misuse of public power for private gains (Senturia, 1931)
  5. “ The abuse of trust for the sake of private benefits(Alatas, 1990)
  6. “ A behaviour which deviates from the normal duties of a public role because of private relationships (family, close private clique), pecuniary or status gain: or violates rules against the exercise of certain types of private relationship (Nye, 1970)
  7. “The misuse or the abuse of public office for private gain”(World Bank, 1997; UNDP, 1999).
  8. “The abuse of entrusted power for private gain” at three levels: petty (management level), grand (leadership level) and political (systemic level) (Transparency International (TI) .
  9. “Betrayal of trust resulting directly or indirectly from the subordination of public goals over those of the individual”(Gire, 1999)

Note: Corruption in private life (religious institutions, educational institutions, associations, clubs and so on) is not often considered.
Manifestations – bribery, extortion, fraud, nepotism, graft, speed money, pilferage, theft, embezzlement, falsification of records, kickbacks, influence peddling, and campaign contributions, etc


  1. Nepotistic corruption – preferential treatment of, or unjustified appointment of friends or relations to public office, in violation of the accepted guidelines.

Supportive corruption – does not involve money or immediate gains, but involves actions taken to protect or strengthen the existing corruption.

Transactive corruption – situations where the two parties are mutual and willing participants in the corrupt practice to the advantage of both parties (Alatas, 1990).

  1. Autogenic corruption – self-generating and typically involves only the perpetrator.

Defensive corruption – bribing in order to prevent unpleasant consequences (self-defense).

  1. Extortive corruption – demanding personal compensation in exchange for services.
  2. Investive corruption – offer of goods or services without a direct link to any particular favor at the present, but in anticipation of future situations when the favour may be required.


In the summation of the state of corruption in Nigeria Obasanjo (2003) indicated that:

“Corruption has become part and parcel of daily life and is tolerated, accepted, and institutionalized to the extent that both people who give and receive bribes have internalized that behavior.”

This statement speaks the reality in all African countries. Corruption has became a new normal yet it is the very cancer which is screaming our economies and murdering all forms of development across the continent.


Most African governments and institutions share the same strategies in their engagement in corruption. The strategies includes :

1) Intentional distortion of financial records.

2) Misappropriation of assets whether or not accompanied by distortion of statement.

3) Payment for contracts of jobs not executed.

4) Ten percent kick backs from contracts awarded.

5) Intentional loss of receipts and mutilation of account documents.

6) Insertion of fictitious names in the payment voucher and the amount involved paid to unauthorized persons.

7) Using government official letter head paper to order for goods for private use purporting that it belongs to government.

8) Paying public cheques into private account for any reason best known to the officer.

9) Paying twice the cost of item(s) using the same document.

10) Leaving exe employees on the pay roll and collecting the said amount for private use.

11) Charging the public or students unauthorized fees that are not utilized for the supply of any material for the institution.

12) Doctoring marks for students for personal reasons.

13) Asking and receiving cash or material before approving projects.

14) Having carnal knowledge of opposite sex before transacting business

15) Receiving cash or kind to write project for student.

16) Disposal of any government assets without due approval.

17) Auctioning government property to one self at little or no cost.

18) Dolling money to people to allow you stay in an office for another term.

19) Over-inflating the cost of items purchased for the public.

20) Diversion of workers’ salaries and allowances for personal use (Agenyi and Ameh, 2009:129).


The effects of corruption in Africa includes :

*Lack of basic infrastructure like good road networks

  • Misuse of natural resource
  • Inadequate power and water supply.
  • Mediocrity in professional and leadership positions.
  • Defective leadership outputs
  • Fuel scarcity even in oil producing nations
  • Falling standards of education and work output
  • High unemployment rates
  • Ever-widening gap between the rich and poor
  • International effects such as the tarnished image of the country in the international circles and the caution exercised by foreign nationals in entering business transactions with Africans thereby weakening the economic sector


Some essential building blocks for an effective anti-corruption campaign include:

  1. Political Will (Societal Will inclusive)
    Effective anti-corruption legislation.
  2. Provision of adequate law enforcement tools
  3. Provision of adequate human, financial and physical resources.
  4. A determination to continue with the campaign despite setbacks and embarrassments.
  5. Independent, skilled, effective and corruption-free judiciary systems

Skilled personnel in Investigations, Prosecutions, Accountancy, Public Education, Corruption Prevention and Effective public education campaigns.

  1. Independent, courageous and skilled media.

Continued public support.


There is the need for adequate transparency, accountability, and probity in the use of public resources.

There is a need for civic education to be revived as an integral part of the school curricula at all educational levels, whereby African students are taught the values of patriotism and service.

For the mother Africa to reach her greatest heights, all hands must be on deck to wage the war against corruption in AFRICA.

Let us take upon ourselves to free Africa from corruption.” Like state like citizens” Fighting corruption must start by the majority citizens themselves until top leadership learn to humble themselves .

It begins with as little as rejection of bribes at bank queues and at schools. Corruption is not always about governments misusing public funds.

Let’s work hand in glove to create the incorrupt Africa we want! African problems needs African solutions! Together we can and we shall!

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