Volume 29, Issue 3
Individual attitudes toward anti-corruption policies in Sub-Saharan Africa:
NUPI, Norway and CERDI-CNRS, University of Auvergne, France
This study examines African populations` attitudes toward anti-corruption policies. Previous studies only look at
individuals` experiences or attitudes with respect to corruption itself or its prevalence. Relying on micro data from six
Sub-Saharan African countries and using ordered probit models, we show that social factors (education, employment,
living conditions, etc.) significantly affect the citizens` attitudes toward anti-corruption strategies. We also highlight the
importance of political characteristics such as access to information (press, media, radio); trust in the court of appeal;
participations in demonstrations.
I am grateful to Jens Andvig, Jean-Louis Combes, Gerard Chambas, Mathilde Maurel, Wladimir Andreff and François Roubaud for useful
comments on an earlier draft. I gratefully acknowledge that anonymous referees provided constructive reviews with valuable suggestions. I
would like also to thank the Afrobarometer Network for the data availability. Any errors of omission or interpretations remain the responsibility
of the author.
Citation: Gbewopo Attila, (2009) ''Individual attitudes toward anti-corruption policies in Sub-Saharan Africa: Microeconometric evidence '',
Economics Bulletin, Vol. 29 no.3 pp. 1933-1939.
Submitted: Apr 29 2009. Published: August 13, 2009.
In the recent decades, thanks partly to growing research (see for example Andvig and
Moene, 1990; Mauro, 1995; 1998; Mo, 2001; Gerlagh and Pellegrini, 2004) and policy
campaigns led by international organizations (Transparency International, World Bank,
African Development Bank, United Nations Development Program, etc.) awareness about
perverse effects of corruption have been increasing among public authorities as well as
among citizens. In order to fight the plague, many developing countries have therefore
launched anti-corruption programs. In Sub-Saharan African countries, a number of national
anti-corruption commissions have been created. The main objective is to combat all forms of
corruption and crime activities in the public sphere. Anti-corruption policies include strong
measures such as prosecution, punishment of corrupted officials, jails, etc. As part of this
agenda, these countries have also approved different treaties: the African Parliamentarians’
Network against Corruption (1999), the United Nations convention against corruption (2003),
the African Union convention on preventing and combating corruption (2003), etc.
The objective of this paper is to investigate citizen attitudes toward anti-corruption
policies in six selected sub-Saharan African countries (Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania,
Uganda and South Africa). There has been remarkably little empirical work aiming at
evaluating the anti-corruption policy undertaken by public authorities in these countries. So
far, attention was given to the perception of corruption and its microeconomic factors
(Čábelková, 2001; Reinikka and Svensson, 2003, 2005; Guerrero and Rodríguez-Oreggia,
2008; Mocan, 2008). Previous studies highlighted the importance of individual, social and
political factors, reflecting the extent to which individuals participate in corrupt transactions,
express their experience (their own or that of their relatives) vis-à-vis corruption in public
services. Focusing on attitudes toward handling of corruption, the present paper considers the
role of citizens in the evaluation of the performance of anti-corruption policies.
2- Econometric analysis
2.1- The empirical methodology
data on individuals from different countries over the same period. Our dependent variable of
interest is the individual perception of the anti-corruption handling which is observed for
each individual in the dataset. The explanatory variables, suggested by the micro-evidences
of corruption perception, include demographic factors (sex, age, education, employment
status), living condition (index of poverty) and political characteristics (level of democracy,
press freedom, trust in court of appeal, etc.)
Our estimation method is the ordered probit with unknown parameters. Such an
approach is justified by the fact that corruption data used here are rankings. The ordinary
least squares model is not appropriate insofar as it treats equally the difference between 1 and
2 as that between 3 and 4 (Greene, 2003). The probit or logit models would also fail to
account for the ordinal nature of the dependent variable.
The interest of pooling data from different countries is to have a maximum of
information. Through this approach, we presuppose that behavior is uniform across the
different countries studied. However, in order to control for the heterogeneity between
countries, we included country dummy variables in the equations.
The method used in this study is based on a pseudo panel in which we have survey
2.2- Data source and description
surveys in six countries in Africa over the period 1999-20011.
Our investigations are based on the following question: “How well would you say the
government is handling […] corruption?”
The answer to this question has four modalities: 1=Very badly/Not at all well.
2=Quite badly/Not very well. 3=Fairly well. 4=Very well. The other explanatory variables
are described in table 1 below.
The data used in this analysis come from the first round of Afrobarometer households’
Table 1: Definitions of the other variables
Age of the individual (continue)
Female = 1; Male = 0
= 1 if the individual lives in rural areas and 0 in the city
Level of education: 0 = no formal education; 1 = Primary 2 =
Secondary; 3 = Post-secondary (treated as a continuous variable)
= (povfoo + povhth + povinc + povwat + pfeerd + pfenow) / 6
(simple average of indicators of access to food, health care, drinking
water, with no income, living conditions and economic situation in
the country) 0 = never; 1 = rarely; 2 = often; 3 = forever
1 = You can have confidence in most people; 2 = You should be
= 1 if the respondent is a member of a local development
association. religion or a business association , O otherwise
Take part in a demonstration if the respondent has participated in a demonstration (community
meetings. political demonstrations)
0 = never; 1 = once or twice; 2 = only a few times; 3 = often
Write to the press Write to the press: 0 = never; 1 = once or twice; 2 = only a few
times ;3 = often
Listen to the radio (medrad) 0 = never; 1 = less than once per month; 2 = roughly once
a month; 3 = roughly once a week; 4 = Several times a week; 5 =
Watching TV (medtv) 0 = never ;1 = less than once a month; 2 = roughly once a
month; 3 = roughly once a week; 4 = Several times a week; 5 =
Read newspapers (mednew) 0 = never; 1 = less than once a month; 2 = roughly once a
month; 3 = roughly once a week; 4 = Several times a week; 5 =
Access to information 1 if (medrad> = 3 | medtv> = 1 | mednew> = 1); 0 otherwise
Democracy =1 if respondent considers that democracy means “voting/electoral
choice/ competition multiparty” and =0 otherwise
Confidence in the Court of Appeal 1 = not at all; 2 = a few times; 3 = most of the time; 4=always.
Unemployed 1 = if the interviewee says that he is unemployed; 0 otherwise
informal worker = 1 if the individual works in the informal sector; 0 otherwise
Businessman 1 = if the interviewee is a businessman; 0 otherwise
Officer 1 = if the respondent is an official; 0 otherwise
NGOs = 1 if the respondent works in an NGO ;0 otherwise
Farmer = 1 if the respondent is a farmer; 0 otherwise
Politician 1 = if the interviewee is a politician; 0 otherwise
Indicator of poverty
Level of general trust
Member of an association
1 The data are available on www.afrobarometer.org.
2.3- Descriptive statistics
classified in two groups. In the first group, which can be described as "most inefficient",
Ghana and South African Republic are at the top. The actions of government in these
countries are perceived as inefficient, according to a global assessment by over 33% of the
male population as against only 28% of women. Thus, in Ghana nearly 61% of respondents
felt that the anti-corruption policy is very poor. This view seems to be shared by people in
other countries including the South African Republic and Mali where the figure is
respectively 67% and 51%. The second category of countries, the "most efficient", includes
Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda with 64%, 55% and 51%2 of people surveyed who consider
public actions have some effectiveness. In all cases, there was no clearcut distinction between
urban and rural populations.
Table 2 presents the salient features of these data by country. Countries could be
Table 2- Handling of corruption in six selected African countries
Source: our calculation, based on Afrobarometer data
third of the unemployed, religious leaders and employers rated anti-corruption policy poorly
or very poorly, politicians, soldiers and officials had a (very) favorable opinion (48%, 67%,
40% respectively). It is tempting to conclude that officials appreciate the positive actions of
the State. In contrast, the police negatively appreciate (24%) the same policy.
The opinion differs according to occupation or employment status. While more than a
of coefficients obtained by the ordered probit model is not straightforward (Greene, 2003). It
is also necessary to clarify the direction in which the indicator of corruption varies. As for the
variable representing the fight against corruption, 4 means that the policies implemented by
public authorities are considered very effective.
Econometric results are reported in table 3. Four columns are presented so as to take
into account the interactions between poverty and access to information. When we look at the
evaluation of anti-corruption policy, in all specifications, older people are non skeptical
toward the authorities corruption handling. In both cases, the probability of perception
decreases after a certain threshold. This threshold is estimated approximately to be 54-55
years. Women perceive anti-corruption policies to be more efficient. This finding suggests
that women may perceive differently corruption itself and handling of corruption since other
Before interpreting the results, a few points are worth noting. First, the interpretation
2 These figures are obtained by adding proportions in “fairly well” and “very well”.
international analyses (Swamy et al., 2001; Gatti et al., 2003) show that females are less
prone to corrupt behavior.
People who interact less frequently with public administration seem to perceive anti-
corruption policy as more effective. This is the case of rural inhabitants, for example.
Furthermore, the poorer people are, the better they evaluate anti-corruption policy. These
results are also consistent with the appreciation of peasants who consider that public
authorities undertake more effective anti-corruption policy. On the contrary, major
differences appear among different employment categories which have intensive interactions
with public administrations. There is no difference in the evaluation of anti-corruption policy
between public officials, businessmen and other categories of workers. The non-significance
of NGO dummy is surprising since, as independent organizations, they are supposed to
support anti-corruption programs (Khemani, 2009).
Furthermore, more educated people consider that corruption is not well handled by
public authorities. They probably evaluate more severely the performance of public
General trust in the society (proxy for the social capital) and trust in the court of
appeal (proxy for law enforcement) have two opposing effects. The higher is the former, the
less effective corruption handling is; whereas the higher the latter the more effective
corruption combating is evaluated. Even though these factors do not affect the payment of
bribe as shown by Guerrero and Rodríguez-Oreggia (2008) in Mexico, they are important in
handling of corruption.
The press freedom significantly affects corruption handling. People believe that if
they can easily write to the press to denounce the abuse of public officials, then the anti-
corruption policy might be more effective. However, listening to radio, watching TV and
reading news have only a limited effect in the evaluation of anti-corruption policy. While
press freedom’s result is consistent with the important role of information in curbing
corruption as evidenced by other authors (Reinikka and Svensson, 2005; Brunetti and Weder,
2002), our results suggest that people must take part actively in information delivery. People
do not have just to listen to radio or to watch TV but they must express their voice on
corruption practices and experiences, may it be in participating in public debates or attending
demonstrations. Though, consistent with other empirical analysis (Paldam, 2002; Treisman,
2000; Rose-Ackerman, 1999; Serra, 2006), democracy, considered as a political system open
to voting, electoral choice and multiparty competition, does not significantly affect the
citizens’ attitudes toward anti-corruption policies.
One may question whether most of previous results are not driven by the poverty. For
example, not all poor people can afford radio or TV. As they are also less educated, they have
less access to information. So, the coefficients associated with these factors are likely to be
biased. Our main results do not fundamentally change when we exclude the poverty variable
from the specifications (cf. columns (3) and (4)).
Table 3: Microeconomic determinants of the perception of handling of corruption
Indicator of poverty
General trust in the society
Being member of an association
Participate in a demonstration
Write to the press
Listen to radio
Access to information
Trust in the court of appeal
Dummy informal worker
Number of observations
z statistics in parentheses; *** p<0.01. ** p<0.05. * p<0.1
Handling corruption (pfpcr1)
(1) (2) (3) (4)
4- Concluding remarks
The purpose of the paper was to investigate the public attitude toward the handling of
corruption in six selected African countries using Afrobarometer households’ survey data.
Hence, effectiveness of anti-corruption policies is considered. Existing works, focusing
mostly on perception of corruption, pay a little if not any attention to this issue.
The econometric results emphasize the importance of individual, social and political
factors in evaluating the efficiency of anti-corruption strategies. Some results are consistent
with empirical analyses of determinants of corruption. Education, gender, the press freedom
have active role to play in designing efficient anti-corruption strategies. Democracy does not
significantly affect the performance of corruption handling. Emphasis should be put on
political factors: trust in the court of appeal, participation in demonstrations.
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