Corruption In Africa’s Developing States


Corruption is one of the most topical social problems that have always been topical. However, for areas characterized by a weak government, low social development, absence of infrastructure, poverty, and military conflicts, it becomes critical as bribery slows down evolution, deteriorates the situation in the state, and undermines the work of social institutions. Another critical problem is that corruption has numerous forms and sophisticated schemes that can be employed to hide illegal and unethical practices and acquire benefits. Thus, Abu and Staniewski (2019) define corruption as the abuse of available power and authority to generate a private gain. The given definition demonstrates that bribery, as one of its forms, is possible when one of the parties possesses the authority and access to resources that can be used for private purposes. For this reason, it becomes strongly associated with agencies of bodies responsible for critical processes in countries. It also means that the problem has a systemic nature that demands multiple sources and efforts to address and resolve it.

Moreover, the problem of corruption is interconnected with politics and the work of government. Otusanya (2011) is sure that the dominance of unfair practices and bribery is possible only if the major agencies do not have limits established by the law or the juridical system is also corrupted. The ineffective supervision combined with the ineffective work of regulatory bodies creates the space for manipulations with finance and other sources (Narcisse & Tiky, 2010). For countries with established political systems and the aligned work of all power branches, the problem becomes less critical. However, for developing regions, corruption becomes one of the integral parts of their social, political, and economic lives and affects the main institutions. Under these conditions, practical strategies to struggle against bribery acquire the top priority as one of the major tools necessary for creating the basis for the future positive shifts and generation of benefits for broader population groups. Otherwise, the lack of attention to the problem worsens the situation and political collapse combined with the inability to improve the situation.

Corruption in Africa

For Africa’s developing states, the problem of corruption remains one of the most topical issues. Joslyn (2019) says bribery has been a source of economic inefficiency in numerous parts of the continent. Statistics show that from 1999 to 2015, bout 397 individuals and 133 entities were provided with punishments for bribery and unethical or illegal actions (Joslyn, 2019). Moreover, the region lost about $89 billion a year in illicit financial flows and tax evasion, according to the United Nations report (D’Agostino et al., 2016). It demonstrates the critical scope of the problem and its influence on all aspects of life in the state. Moreover, the growing people’s dissatisfaction with corruption influences the political life of the state and elections as people prefer to select anti-corruption candidates ready to protect nations (Joslyn, 2019). Under these conditions, the scope of the problem is significant and continuous to grow. The reports show that most African countries do not have demanded transparency levels to control the spread of corruption and stop its further evolution. For this reason, the concern acquires the top priority.

The problem is complicated because numerous countries in Africa have low Human Development Indicators. According to the United Nations, the combination of low HDI and low scores in transparency international’s corruption perception index means that there are numerous opportunities for bribers to generate benefits and conceal their gain by using illegal schemes (D’Agostino et al.,2016). Furthermore, D’Agostino et al. (2016) say that corruption might interact with government spending to influence economic growth in African countries. It means that the continent experiences a powerful influence of this factor which becomes one of the integral parts of its economy and slows down the speed of its development and evolution (D’Agostino et al., 2016). Regardless of numerous attempts to struggle against the problem, it remains topical. The colonial past, first stages of economic development, and neo-patrimonialism influence the situation, making it more complex and creating the ground for new cases. Investigating these aspects, it is possible to acquire an improved vision of this phenomenon and how it affects African society.

Causes of Corruption

Another problem is that corruption in Africa is deeply rooted, and there are numerous causes for its emergence. For instance, speaking about Nigeria, Abu and Staniewski (2019) emphasize the existence of numerous social and economic problems. Insufficient public spending on education and healthcare, critical levels of unemployment, low income, severe poverty, cultism, kidnapping, and weak centralized power affected the state and all aspects of its life. One of the major factors responsible for the emergence of these issues was corruption in the public sector affecting all segments of the state’s economy and all branches of its power, such as executive, legislative, and judicial (Abu & Staniewski, 2019). As a result, Nigeria suffered from multiple adverse effects linked to the given social problem. Abu and Staniewski (2019) assume that the major determinants of corruption and bribery in Nigeria were economic development, civil liberties, political rights, and military conflicts. These could be viewed as the state’s colonial heritage and its failed state-building attempts.

In such a way, corruption is closely linked to economic and social development. For African states, the problem becomes especially topical as most nations are viewed as developing ones. Having become independent, African countries engaged in state-building processes; however, the lack of experience, inner conflicts linked to the colonial past, the strong influence of neocolonialism, and the absence of a clear vision for the future evolution reduced the power of governments (Abu & Staniewski, 2019). The ineffective management and rule resulted in establishing the system characterized by unethical practices and attempts to gain benefits at any cost (Abu & Staniewski, 2019). It gave rise to crime, military conflicts, and corruption as one of the integral components of this system. According to numerous authors, the leading causes for corruption in Africa include low economic development, lack of transparency, poverty, and ineffective social institutions (Abu & Staniewski, 2019; Narcisse& Tiky, 2010; Otusanya, 2011). These factors contribute to the establishment of an environment favorable for the emergence of unethical behaviors and illicit financial operations.

Neo Patrimonialism

Another factor that is often associated with the rise of corruption in Africa is the existence of neo-patrimonialism. The given system influences social interactions and introduces specific rules regulating relations between population groups and individuals. Bonga (2021) defines it as a specific framework where patrons have access to state resources and can use them to protect the loyalty of clients and ensure they are ready to continue the interaction. The functioning of the system supports specific relations between a patron and a client and ensures their close cooperation (Bonga, 2021). At the same time, the bureaucratic structure of the state supports the functioning of the model and provides people with real power with a chance to protect their interests and dominant positions (Bonga, 2021). For Africa, neo-patrimonialism was viewed as the necessary factor to unify nations after decolonization and ensure they have access to resources needed for their evolution (Bonga, 2021). However, over time, the system led to the exploitation of colonial institutions to generate benefits for a few individuals (Bonga, 2021). It became one of the central issues for the developing nations.

Numerous contemporary authors assume that neo-patrimonialism is one of the significant factors influencing the poor state of African economics. D’Agostino et al. (2016) view it as the explanation of the poor economic performance and ineffective work of other social institutions. The existence of patrons with their own interests creates the space for manipulations and machinations, meaning there will always be an opportunity to employ illegal practices (Bonga, 2021). The same scheme can be observed in business spheres. Bonga (2021) says that companies that have patrons with authority and power have more chances for beneficial contracts and can easily generate extra revenue. The given system results in the establishment of unfair practices in all spheres of African states. The limited access to resources also means that such patrons can benefit from their privileged status and make decisions helping to meet their interests instead of promoting wellness in communities (Bonga, 2021). Most businesses in African states suffer from neopatrimonialism and are limited in their options to do their job or generate money. It critically slows down the speed of economic development and excludes population groups from social and economic discourse.

Corruption and Government

Another critical problem with corruption in Africa is that it is cultivated by the government and agencies representing it. Thus, Budhram and Geldenhuys (2018) say that bribery has an endemic nature in most states of the continent, while local governments fail to struggle with the problem. For instance, South Africa can be described as a shadow state controlled by corrupted bodies and staying on the edge of becoming a state controlled by criminals and clans (Budhram & Geldenhuys, 2018). In such a way, corruption takes place in Africa on a massive scale and remains all-pervasive, affecting all spheres of social and political life. Budhram and Geldenhuys (2018) say that although the governments recognize the existing problem and its critical influence on states, the efforts aimed at its elimination are weak and ineffective. The low reporting rate, solving and detection rates, and an insufficient number of convictions compared to the incidence of crime prove the decreased effectiveness of such efforts and attempts to struggle with corruption (Budhram & Geldenhuys, 2018). The central reason explaining the failure of these efforts is the involvement of all governmental bodies in bribery.

Analyzing the motifs for misconduct and unethical behavior of politicians and governmental bodies, Budhram and Geldenhuys (2018) say that self-enrichment in terms of poverty is the primary cause of the government’s helplessness and its inability to address the problem. Researchers also show that 330 members and former members of the Parliament in South Africa were engaged in unethical machinations and schemes viewed as corruption (Budhram & Geldenhuys, 2018). High-ranking officials, senior managers, corporates, business people, and their family members formed close relations characterized by bribery, corruption, and protection of interests by abusing power (Budhram & Geldenhuys, 2018). Moreover, corruption in government facilitates money laundering and the outflow of money from developing countries (Budhram & Geldenhuys, 2018). It becomes a serious problem for their economies as the lack of finances slows down all critical processes and reduces the effectiveness of state-building processes. Under these conditions, corrupted governmental bodies make the problem of corruption more sophisticated and postpone its resolution. At the same time, they contribute to the emergence of numerous adverse effects in business and economics. The resolution of the problem is impossible without addressing the problem of political corruption and bribery, which have severe effects on Africa’s states.

Economies and Corruption

As stated previously, corrupted practices occur due to the inappropriate development of infrastructure and lack of financial resources that can be used by populations to improve their well-being. Abu and Staniewski (2019) state that higher economic development and civil liberties available to citizens might help to control corruption levels and reduce the new cases of bribery and enhance transparency. However, the major problem is that in African states, their underdeveloped economies cannot ensure the desired well-being level for people. For this reason, they view unethical and illegal practices as the only possible way to improve their current states and ensure individuals will survive and support their families. Moreover, since there are no perspectives for the critical improvement, the corruption will remain persuasive and affect the economies of states.

The poor economic development and access to fundamental liberties influence most areas in Africa. Abu & Staniewski (2019) say that the continuous infringement on human rights increases the level of fear and actualizes the basic security needs, such as the demand for food, shelter, and safety. For this reason, corruption is viewed as the way to satisfy basic needs and ensure survival (Abu & Staniewski, 2019). It means that the corrupted practices cannot be eliminated when citizens of the state do not have access to infrastructure and suffer from the lack of protection and social coverage (Abu & Staniewski, 2019). In such a way, weak economies dominating the African continent create the basis for the future deterioration of the situation and the further development of corruption, which might have critical effects on states’ future.

Ethical Sides of Corruption

Analyzing the problem, it is also critical to mention the ethical side of corruption. Engagement in illegal practices and schemes is viewed as a rude violation of existing laws and inappropriate behavior (Turyakira, 2018). However, regardless of the overall negative attitude to the given phenomenon, it remains topical and evolves. There are several factors explaining the continuous nature of the process. First of all, the phenomenon became a part of the culture, which is one of the threatening signs affecting societies (Turyakira, 2018). It is viewed as an inevitable aspect of an existing system and its integral part (Turyakira, 2018). For this reason, attempts to struggle against corruption always fail as they are initially viewed as ineffective (Turyakira, 2018). Furthermore, ordinary citizens know corrupt officials and address them to assist with their business problems or issues (Galperin et al., 2020). It means that bribery transformed from an unethical practice into part of everyday interactions, which is dangerous for a developing society.

The ethical sides of corruption also include establishing an unfair and discriminative system affecting all citizens’ lives. Thus, abuse of power, bribery, inappropriate use of public funds, influencing the work of the justice system, and hiding income create the basis for the rise of individual and social injustice and discrimination. For instance, Galperin et al. (2020) say that most business people in Africa cannot do business independently and use fair practices. The refusal to pay the patron will result in the creation of conditions depressing a new project and depriving it of the chance to evolve and provide citizens with income (Turyakira, 2018). Under these conditions, corruption has multiple negative and unethical impacts on the society of African states and its business sphere.

Business Ethics, Corruption, Unfair Practices

The information found in previous sources shows that neo-patrimonialism, corrupted schemes, and the ineffective work of supervisory and judiciary bodies influence the state of the business sector. Turyakira (2018) says that there is increasing pressure on business organizations to behave ethically and be transparent. It indicates that unethical practices are judged at the international level, and groups using such methods can face severe punishment (Adeleye et al., 2020). For Africa’s business, it means that most of its companies face the high risk of being excluded from the discourse because of the deep integration of corrupted schemes in their functioning. At the same time, Turyakira (2018) says that violation of the business rules and the code of ethics results in the collapse of the economy and business sphere and also cultivates high corruption. For this reason, bribery gives rise to bribery and the emergence of multiple adverse effects in the states.

The corrupted culture and the dominance of unfair forms also influence the business world. Thus, Galperin et al. (2020) say that entrepreneurs might suffer from problems caused by deeply rooted illegal practices. Using data from a real case, Galperin et al. (2020) say that fair and ethical entrepreneurs are pressed and threatened by their partners, who are used to employ illegal schemes and methods to attain their goals. It worsens the situation, and it is impossible to remain with the legal framework. Third parties appeal to their patrons and politicians who have the power to use economic levers and guarantee obedience and observation of existing corrupted practices (Galperin et al., 2020). The example demonstrates that corruption becomes a severe challenge for all African entrepreneurs and business people who try to generate income. They are obliged to follow unofficial rules and pay their patrons.

Moreover, in most African states, the healthcare sector and businesses associated with its work are also corrupted. Medicine and distribution of drugs have always been attractive for investors as it is possible to acquire stable benefits and income. At the same time, there is a high level of governmental involvement as the healthcare sector is a critical part of any country, and its functioning is regulated by the state. Regarding the corrupted practices employed by most politicians in Africa, it means that the healthcare sector becomes corrupted same as many other spheres (Onwujekwe et al., 2020). For instance, in Nigeria, the reports identify 49 corrupt practices that affect the sector’s work (Onwujekwe et al., 2020). At the same time, business people involved in the work of the sphere also have to follow corrupted methods and accept the existing approaches. For this reason, the literature evidences the fact that corruption also influences the healthcare sector and deteriorates the quality of care delivery.

In such a way, numerous authors evidence that the business sectors of African states face the challenge of growing corruption and the impossibility to remain ethical and act observing the current laws. At the same time, the research shows that companies that have the experience of being part of the corrupted system or which use unfair practices suffer from a poor image at the international level (Onwujekwe et al., 2020). It means that they have decreased chances of acquiring new international partners and becoming a global actor. For this reason, Africa’s states do not have the chance of developing solid economies and resolving the problem of poverty. Local companies are viewed as unreliable partners and suffer from reduced access to international sources.


The facts mentioned above show that the problem of corruption remains significant and affects African states and their economies. The business sector is also impacted by bribery, neo-patrimonialism, and unfair practices, which means a limited number of chances for successful development. For this reason, it is critical to offer practical solutions to the problem and methods that can help to reduce the number of new cases. Thus, Abu and Staniewski (2019) say that one of the major demands for eliminating the given social stigma is the improvement of the quality of life, provision of access to civil liberties, and cultivation of economic development. Addressing these factors, it is possible to focus on the major causes for the growing number of briberies to eliminate them. The investigators say that access to healthcare, food, social institutions, and a fair attitude leads to reconsidering the attitude to unfair practices and their reduced topicality (Abu & Staniewski, 2019). For this reason, it is critical to focus on addressing these issues first of all.

At the same time, the solution to corruption demands a structured and systemic approach. Joslyn (2019) says that the reconsideration of the current system of relations between political and economic powers is the central demand for reducing corruption levels. Thus, the increased transparency will lead to better control and supervision, which is vital for struggling against bribery and cultivating fair practices in the state. The structured approach implies the destruction of existing ties between political agencies and local businesses which benefit from corruption and neo-patrimonialism. It will help to reduce the pressure on business and guarantee that new, fair, and legal practices will be used (Joslyn, 2019). In such a way, most authors agree that elimination of corruption is possible only if the structured approach is used and the systemic change is implemented.


Altogether, most reviewed sources show that corruption remains a critical concern for Africa’s developing states. The absence of needed infrastructure, poor economic development, and the outdated system of relations between the government and individuals create the basis for the rise of unethical practices. Investigators show that almost all sectors and industries are corrupted and cannot be viewed as transparent. Illegal financial schemes and the movement of capital affect countries and make future development impossible. Under these conditions, it becomes critical to implement effective measures that would help to address the problem and resolve it.

The deeply rooted nature of corruption means a structured approach is needed to struggle against it. Thus, most authors say that the collaborative effort of all existing regulatory bodies is needed to destroy old and ineffective practices and guarantee they are replaced with new ones, which might help to align meaningful cooperation between individuals and government. It would help to make business ethical again and guarantee that no critical deterioration of the situation would appear.


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