Thursday, October 29, 2020

Will Botswana regain its ‘least-corrupt’ crown on Thursday night?

After being dethroned by a small island for a coveted international beauty-pageant title, Botswana (currently the first princess) awaits Thursday night with bated breath to hear the judges’ announcement on which African country is the fairest of them all. Ever since Transparency International (TI) started scoring countries on how corrupt their public sectors are, Botswana has consistently scored the highest of all countries. That changed last year.

“Seychelles scores 66 out of 100, to put it at the top of the [Sub-Saharan] region,” the TI’s 2018 report says. “Seychelles is followed by Botswana and Cabo Verde, with scores of 61 and 57 respectively.”

TI’s annual reports come out in January and this Thursday night, it will release its 25th annual Corruption Perceptions Index for 2019. For as long as it has existed, the Botswana Government Communication and Information Systems (BGCIS) has always released a celebratory press statement each time Botswana has beaten the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. It would seem that BGCIS is not interested in second position because information about the historic decline of Botswana’s decline in the CPI was not disseminated. The result is that some people still think that Botswana is still the least corrupt country in Africa.

There are two ways to interpret this decline: either that corruption rose under President Mokgweetsi Masisi (who was sworn in on April 1, 2018) or that more of it was exposed. That is speculative but the fact of the matter is that under Masisi, Botswana saw a historic anti-corruption crusade – which fact TI itself acknowledges in its 2018 report: “Angola, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa and Kenya are all important countries to watch, given some promising political developments. The real test will be whether these new administrations will follow through on their anti-corruption commitments moving forward.”

The other equally important fact is that under Masisi’s predecessor, Ian Khama, corruption levels soared to a historic high. Going by the analysis of the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank, Botswana’s corruption shot up by 5.8 percentage points between 2008 and 2018.There is the question though of whether TI’s rankings matter at all and whether the annual beauty pageant has any real meaning. On one level, the pageant is clearly shot through with fraud because astronomical sums of public money that is stolen by Third World leaders is mostly stashed away in banks at one of the best-performing countries on TI’s CPI – Switzerland.

On another level, while less corruption is supposed to attract FDI, highly corrupt countries like Nigeria and Mozambique continue to attract more FDI than least corrupt countries like Botswana.

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