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The 20 Most Corrupt Countries in the World

South Sudan

In every country, aspiring politicians fight for government positions. Citizens elect politicians hoping they will serve their interests; however, this is not always the case. Some governments engage in corruption, which goes against the voters’ wishes. Although corruption occurs in every sector, it is more prevalent in the government sector. The problem of corruption is that it can cause a country’s economy to worsen. Additionally, it can hinder the delivery of justice. To better understand the concept of corruption, we will need to identify some of the most corrupt countries. We will discuss the forms of corruption in those countries since they differ from country to country. According to Transparency International, these are the 20 most corrupt countries in the world based on its 2021 findings.


20. Eritrea

The rise of corruption in the country has been attributed to the intense concentration of power. That is ironic since the Eritrean constitution calls for a separation of powers among the judiciary, legislature, and executive. When Isaias Afwerki took over as president in 1993, he usurped Congress’ constitutional powers and made himself all-powerful. He remains the president to this day. Once in power, he always ensured that the Executive Council would be full of presidential cronies. Additionally, Eritrea’s business community comprises personal associates of the government. According to Africa Is a Country, the president was so corrupt that his son, Berhane, tried fleeing the country.


19. Congo

Corruption is widely practiced in every sector, yet previous regimes have always ignored it. The country has a specific law that combats corruption done by public officials. That law is called the “Law Against Corruption, Bribery, and Fraud (“Loi contre la Corruption, la Concussion et la Fraude”).” However, the country applies double standards when executing the law. For instance, the law does not apply to family members of officials or political parties. Also, the Congolese government does not make an effort to encourage private companies to establish internal codes of conduct. With no codes of conduct, public officials freely engage in corruption, e.g., accepting bribes.

Guinea Bissau

18. Guinea Bissau

The predominant form of corruption in the country is drug trafficking. According to HIR, the country became a transit point for the international drug trade in the early 2000s. The illegal drugs that land in the country are usually from Latin America. It has been hard to combat the vice since some political and military leaders are usually involved. Another reason corruption thrives in the country is its judicial system. The judiciary is not independent. That means it cannot prosecute corrupt public officials since it would be under attack from the executive.


17. Chad

The major perpetrators of corruption in Chad are those in the security forces. Police officers in the country normally commit street crimes and unlawfully arrest some people. To make matters worse, they rarely get punished for their actions. The court may call for them to be punished, but the judiciary police frequently disregard court orders. One reason is that the police choose not to punish the person due to their shared ethnicity. Corruption is also rampant in public services. Some people land jobs in the sector due to nepotism and bribery. Since some people cannot afford money for bribing, they are forced to contend with unemployment for a long duration.


16. Comoros

A form of corruption that was prevalent in the country for years was the Comoros passport sales scandal. The country ran a citizenship by investment program from 2008-2015. Proceeds from this program were meant to finance development in the country. Instead, the proceeds were embezzled by the perpetrators of the scheme. Also, the scheme benefitted those buying passports from Comoros. According to the Arab Weekly, an Iranian businessman bought them to bypass certain sanctions. Comoros heavily relies on the army for corruption. The country periodically uses the army to harass and detain opposition figures. Also, the army sometimes indirectly influences voters to vote a certain way.


15. Haiti

Political cronyism has been plaguing the country for years. In a 2009 interview, the then Prime Minister, Pierre-Louis, affirmed how it hampered electing a legislature with integrity. Although her words were truthful, some people gave her a lot of flak. The people reminded her that she had earlier been accused of corruption. They felt the corrupt politician had no place talking about integrity. The Haitian leaders are infamous for diverting development funds to other avenues. A good example to use is the case of Jack Warner, the former FIFA vice-president. He was accused of diverting the 2010 earthquake relief funds to his bank account.


14. Nicaragua

A common form of corruption that occurs in Nicaragua is within the customs department. Customs officials usually receive bribes to allow certain goods into the country. More often than not, the goods are of inferior quality, yet the citizens will consume them. Also, some people pay bribes to the customs administration to fasten the clearing process. There is also high corruption where natural resources are involved. Some of the gold in the country is produced illegally so that it can be exported to other countries. Typically, some corrupt governmental individuals are involved. Besides gold, some individuals also engage in illegal logging. Like gold, the logs are also exported.


13. Sudan

This is the country you wouldn’t want to visit as a journalist. Government agencies habitually censor newspapers they deem anti-government. Journalists are left with no option but to write pro-government stories. That means the journalists will also have to ignore any corrupt dealings from the government. Another avenue where corruption occurs is during the elections. This was especially the case during the 2010 elections, in which Omar al-Bashir emerged as the winner. Observers at the time termed the elections unfair. The government curtailed the press’ freedom by limiting their assembly and media coverage. Additionally, the former president was accused of buying votes.


12. Burundi

The popular form of corruption in Burundi is neopatrimonialism. Neopatrimonialism is a hierarchical system where patrons use state resources to secure the loyalty of clients in the general population. This vice has turned away most potential foreign investors. It makes sense since their efforts will not be rewarded since certain clients will be prioritized. As a result, it has led to strained relationships with many investors. Another corrupt practice in the country is tribalism. The Tutsi elite has been at the center of politics since their state capture in 1966. Being the dominant tribe, the Tutsi leaders distribute much of the resources to their tribe. This situation has led to endless conflicts between the Hutu and the Tutsi.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

11. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Much of the corruption in the country were committed by various regimes. It all began when Mobuto Sese Seko ruled the country from 1965 to 1997. His rule was characterized by kleptocracy, which meant he would loot public funds for personal use. Besides looting, he also used corrupt techniques to block his opponents from criticizing his rule. Eventually, Laurent Kabila became fed up with Mobuto’s rule and overthrew him. After that, he made himself president. However, things did not get better under his rule. Like Mobuto, he exploited resources for his benefit. Also, he would habitually postpone elections, which extended his rule. When he died, his son Joseph Kabila took over. Like his father, he was corrupt. In 2021, he was accused of embezzling $138 million.


10. Turkmenistan

Corruption is common in the land department, especially in the construction sector. When you hire a contractor, you have to brace yourself for their inflated costs. Some contractors inflate their costs to use part of it for paying bribes. Another issue in the department is that property rights are poorly protected. That means the government can evict you out of your land anytime they feel like it. Another sector where corruption occurs is in public procurement. For you to secure government contracts, you must pay bribes. You can get away without paying bribes if you have close ties with the president.

Equatorial Guinea

9. Equatorial Guinea

The genesis of corruption in this country dates to the 1980s. In that era, the government seized land belonging to the Spanish and gave it to members of the Nguema/Mongomo group. Since then, the group has been distributing resources to themselves. For instance, they usually divert revenue from the country’s natural resources like land and hydrocarbon. The problem with the group is that it is composed of family members. That means you can only benefit from the country’s resources if you are related to them.


8. Libya

Libya’s police force is generally corrupt. They tend to harass business executives by extorting them. The reason the police engage in corruption is due to lack of proper mechanisms to investigate their corruption and abuse. Furthermore, the country has weak legal institutions, which means they cannot effectively represent victims harassed by the police. There are certain issues plaguing the country’s public services sector. Bribery is rampant in the sector. Another issue is the delayed process of obtaining licenses and permits without explanation. Moreover, the process is usually done in a subjective and opaque way.


7. Afghanistan

There are differences in civil rights and freedoms between urban and rural centers. In the urban center, you can freely express your societal and political opinions without being intimidated. The same cannot be said for those residing in rural centers. That means a rural person wishing to be heard may have to migrate to urban centers, much to their inconvenience. The tax department in the country is extremely corrupt. Sometimes, government officials may demand companies to pay unofficial taxes. Also, you can expect irregular payments and gifts from tax officials.

North Korea

6. North Korea

The country dictates what its citizens should listen to. For instance, North Koreans are not allowed to access foreign media. If you must consume foreign media, you must pay a bribe. The country could be limiting foreign media consumption to prevent citizens from broadcasting the country’s corruption. Bribery does not only apply to consuming foreign media. Sometimes people have to bribe state officials to get food and healthcare.


5. Yemen

The sector massively affected by corruption is natural resources, particularly oil. Foreign investors normally find it challenging to invest in the mineral due to unfair competition from state-owned enterprises. Moreover, there are rebel groups that extort oil companies by imposing unnecessary taxes. Corruption is also high in the tax sector. Tax officials usually extract bribes from companies by under-evaluating assessments and pocketing the difference. Also, you have to pay a bribe just to meet a tax official.


4. Venezuela

Venezuela’s constitution guarantees one the freedom of speech and press. However, the journalists will tell you otherwise. In 2014, the government began a crackdown on journalists to curb free speech. This has led some journalists to avoid reporting on the government’s activities. Others have been forced to change their story coverage to match the government’s taste. Drug trafficking is prevalent in this country. In fact, former president Hugo Chavez had been accused of drug trafficking. There are a lot of parties involved in drug trafficking besides the Venezuelan government. Other parties engaged in the vice include the Cuntrera-Caruana Mafia clan and the Norte del Valle Cartel.


3. Somalia

Insecurity is a major concern in the country, yet the police in the country are ineffective. As a result, citizens cannot rely on the police. This has forced them to protect themselves by allying themselves with violent groups. Through the violent groups, citizens acquire guns illegally. Also, the army leaders in the country fraudulently gain funds by exaggerating the number of their troops. Some of the funds will go to the military, but a majority to their pockets.


2. Syria

Bribery is a major form of corruption in Syria. Military personnel often have to pay bribes to access certain services. For instance, they may pay bribes to postpone their recruitment, get vacation leave or avoid abuse. To curb bribery within the military, an anti-corruption body was formed in 2017. However, the body turned out to be corrupt. Bribery is also common in the health sector. During the COVID-19 crisis, some people paid bribes just to receive medical attention.

South Sudan

1. South Sudan

In this country, the military state controls its economy, which means they decide how much they can spend. With the freedom of spending, the military spends much money compared to its neighbors. The worst part is that the military is not transparent about its expenditures. Money laundering is also prevalent in the country. The elite knows the country has a fragile economy, so they launder money to generate revenue.


The purpose of the article was not to demean the countries above. Instead, it was to help us understand the different forms of corruption in every country. All is not lost since these countries can take measures to avoid being labeled corrupt. They can combat corruption by imposing sanctions, cutting the red tape, conducting due diligence on all third parties, etc.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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