Corruption or Culture?


What is Corruption ?

Corruption is often defined as the “misuse of entrusted power for private gain”; a complete undermine of any rule of law framework that has been put into place to promote legal formalities.

Transparency International is an organisation set up in 1993, to promote transparency amongst public officials who are appointed to carry out duties on behalf of the public.

One of the ways in which it demonstrates this is via their publication of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which started in 1995. They rank nations in how corrupt a country is perceived to be.

Easy Right?

Well one of the major issues with this publication is the subjective nature of corruption.

The concept of corruption differs across the world, whether you are from a small village in Sierra Leone or from a city such as London.

So, what is the key to the varying perspective?


Culture provides social norms and values, and this varies across the world, ultimately altering attitudes towards how businesses ought to be conducted. Offering money to bypass government inefficiencies in order to speed up decision-making can be considered normal practice in one nation but labeled bribery in another.

This leads to the question, is it really corruption or is it culture?

If one can agree that culture plays an influential role in defining ones morals and values, then under who’s perception does organisation’s such as Transparency International form its judgment in regards to the level of perceived corruption?

Quick Fact.

There are 54 countries that form the African Continent.

Between 2009-2013, only 4 countries on average in the Continent managed to be included in the top-50 least perceived corrupt.

Question Time…

Does the large representation of the west in the top 50 give an indication as to whose ideology dominates Transparency International?

And if so, is Africa a victim of a publication that fail to acknowledge possible culture clashes?

In order to move forward from this, it is imperative we acknowledge the importance of culture but highlight the fact that there must be room where culture falls within the scope that encourages ethical behaviour.

This is where the role of global leaders and influential people become critical in redefining what is right and wrong.

In our follow up we will discuss corruption at another glance, and discuss whether any good can come from it.