By E. Gyimah-Boadi –
A major new survey of African countries which depend on mining or oil revenues shows that six in 10 people have difficulty in finding out how their governments spend the proceeds of the resources.
This is among the findings of a report published by Afrobarometer, the survey network based in academic institutions around the continent which measures African public opinion. The report was written by senior Afrobarometer staff in the Centre for Democratic Development in Ghana.
The survey – of 22 countries – shows that 62 percent of their citizens say it is “very difficult” or “difficult” to establish how governments use revenues from taxes and fees.
Bottom of the list is Guinea, where 77 percent of survey respondents report difficulty, followed by Uganda (73 percent), Tanzania (72 percent), Sierra Leone (71 percent) and Nigeria (69 percent).
In only two countries do a majority of citizens say it is “very easy” or “easy” to determine where tax revenue is spent: Botswana, where the lowest number (43 percent) reports difficulties, and South Africa (47 percent).
Also, most citizens believe that government officials in countries with oil and mineral resources go unpunished for improper behaviour. On average, 54 percent of people in the 22 countries say officials who commit crimes often or always go unpunished.
Morocco falls at the bottom of this list, where 79 percent of respondents do not believe officials will be held accountable, followed by Egypt (69 percent), Zimbabwe (68 percent), Sudan (67 percent) and Nigeria (67 percent).
At the other end of the scale, Botswana performs well in this area too: only 28 percent of its people believe officials go unpunished. Following up behind Botswana are Namibia, where 33 percent feel the same, then Mozambique (34 percent), Ghana (44 percent) and Niger (44 percent).
In 14 countries which Afrobarometer has surveyed since 2005, the perception of crimes going unpunished has risen.
The biggest deterioration in public confidence has occurred in South Africa, where the perception that officials will not be punished has increased by 23 percentage points. In Ghana, it has gone up by 20 points, in Tanzania by 19 points and Nigeria by 17 points.
However, perceptions of justice being done have improved in Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe – although those who say officials go unpunished still constitute a majority in Zimbabwe and Namibia.
The report also says that most people surveyed do not feel they have complete freedom of speech: “Six in ten people in extractive countries say that they must often or always be careful about what they say about politics.”
Nevertheless, most see their countries as meeting criteria for democracy.
“Against gaps in transparency and official impunity,” the report says, “majorities in oil- and mineral-rich states say they enjoy basic freedoms of speech and membership in political parties. Majorities also perceive their media as effective in monitoring government or reporting corruption, and say their presidents follow the rule of law.”
The report concludes: “Institutional opacity and official impunity, two key enablers of corruption and self-dealing among public officials and politicians, seem to remain endemic on the continent…
“Noticeable progress has been made across the board in election credibility and some aspects of personal freedoms. But much work remains to be done to reduce governmental impunity among public officials if African governments are committed to using the burgeoning extractive industry wealth to secure substantial social and economic transformation of their societies in the coming years.”
The Afrobarometer report is entitled Oil & Mining Countries: Transparency Low, Official Impunity High.
The report was written by E. Gyimah-Boadi, executive director of Afrobarometer and of the Centre for Democratic Development in Accra; Daniel Armah-Attoh, Afrobarometer project manager for Anglophone West Africa and senior research associate at the CDD; Mohammed Awal, research officer at the CDD; and Joseph Luna, a PhD student from Harvard University.
The report covers 22 countries. Minerals contribute 25 percent or more of GDP in 11 of them: Algeria, Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan and Zambia. In Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal, mineral extraction produces eight percent or more of GDP. Another seven countries – Egypt, Guinea, Morocco, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Uganda – were included in the survey as “prospective extractive resource-endowed” countries.