News and Information

Africans let down by governments
October 13, 2004
Many Africans feel badly let down by their governments, a United Nations study has found.

Fifty-thousand African families were polled for the report, which covers 28 of the continent's 53 countries.

The most common complaints were corruption, poor tax systems, run-down and unaccountable public services, weak parliaments and unreformed courts.

Yet results varied widely in different countries. In Ghana 75% trusted their authorities compared to 25% in Nigeria.


Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya and Swaziland were four of the poorest performing countries surveyed.

Poorest continent:
How Africa compares with the rest of the world

The study, conducted by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, found that they all fell short on corruption, political representation, economic management and respect for human rights.

"These findings underpin the need for a capable, democratic state with strong institutions promoting the public interest," said ECA head Kingsley Amoako.

However, he said that government is improving in many countries.

"The political environment is being liberalised, human rights are better respected and women are playing a greater role in shaping the continent," Mr Amoako said.

The ECA chose the 28 countries out of Africa's 53 countries because the governments agreed to be surveyed.

Kenyan corruption

Among the other findings, Kenyans thought their own government was amongst the most corrupt on the continent.

Meanwhile, Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki has asked international donors to be patient while his government deals with graft.

"I will continue to fight corruption, not by shouting from rooftops, but by tackling the evil from its roots... It is a war that cannot be won in a single battle," Mr Kibaki told an international conference in Nairobi organised by anti-corruption lobby group Transparency International.

"Patience pays. So does consistency," he said.

Mr Kibaki won a landslide victory in the December 2002 elections with a pledge to fight widespread corruption.

But he has come in for criticism from donors concerned that graft and bribery remain widespread.

However, last month, the International Monetary Fund agreed to back a loan of $35m to Kenya.

How do you feel about your government in Africa? Do you trust them? Which parts of the public system work well and which badly?

Use the form below to send us your views. A selection of them will be read out on the BBC's Focus on Africa at 1700 GMT on 16 October.

The following comments reflect the balance of views received:

Corruption is not peculiarly African. It's universal. In the rest of the world it's called lobbying.
Ikabot, Cape Town, South Africa

I certainly do feel more confident with the current Kenyan government even though we need to see more of drastic actions taken on those graft cases.
James N Nyaga, Sweden, Umea

I am a Kenyan studying in Manchester, England. I believe Kenya is a very corrupt country. Just a few weeks back when I was returning to England from Kenya on Egypt Air after summer vacation, at the airport, I had luggage which was like 15kg over weight. I requested the person at the counter to waiver the overweight charges which amounted to more than $1000.The supervisor there - a Kenyan - called me to his office and told me to bribe him $100 to let me off. These things are common in Kenya and its not wrong when people say it is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
Idris, Manchester, England

Governments all over the world are run by politicians. However we politicians have a credibility problem; most of our people understandably don't trust us. It is a challenge to live to the expectations of our people. I must admit our parliaments are weak. They are rubberstamps of the executive. It is a pity
Abdul Katuntu (Hon), Kampala, Uganda

Throughout Africa, the scourge of lack of leadership is eating at the very core of the continent. The Africans, and Africans alone, need to start institutions of development that prepare future leaders for the challenges they are to face.
Israel Mwesigwa, Dallas, USA

Ghana has come far with the leadership of this current government. Though a lot needs to be done I feel very proud of my government and know that very soon we will take up our place in the community of nations. I trust them because I know that they will at least achieve 90% of their promises as they have than in the past. Our parliament is stronger more than ever with the opposition parties free to comment on anything. The only problem I will ask to be addressed is the water sector. Ghana Water Company please sit up and repair your broken pipes.
Emmanuel Mensah, Kweikuma-Sekondi, Ghana

Last January when I went back home to visit my family in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, it was about 2000 local time and a military police jeep stopped just in front of me near the bus station and a man in the uniform beating and pushing forcedly out of the jeep a woman who was crying, begging him and weeping to pay her for her sexual service. Even if I was stronger, an ordinary man like me is defenceless in such occasions. The most important thing is that it happened at Arat Kilo some meters away from the presidential palace.
Surafel Gebremariam, Europe

As a Zimbabwean, I feel that my government has embarked on an empowerment drive starting of course with the basic necessity , shelter in the form of land redistribution. This has addressed the fundamental issue with respect to the trust that the poor majority entrusted on a government at independence. The basis problem in Africa is poverty which generally caused people to be corrupt. Unfortunately, because leaders come from a corrupt civil society, they tend to be corrupt as well. However if the basic issues of empowerment are addressed firstly with the economic sector then the others such as political, sociocultural, human rights , legal etc will definitely follow. It's unfortunate that the developed world would like to quickly forget that the majority of Africans were disempowered by the colonialist in terms of those items enumerated above and want to blame it on the current black leadership in Africa. In other words, they are basically saying that black self-rule does not work.
Mwana Wavachimbuya, Birmingham UK

I feel strongly that our governments need to reform. They need to become more accountable to the public and international community rather than claiming racism or colonialism whenever they are criticised. Too many African government officials see power as a tool for their own manipulation rather than a method of helping other Africans better their country and their lives. They need to work with developed countries not against them.
Ngemi Aleweo, Cape Town, SA

I have little or no trust in most African governments and the Ethiopian government being on top of my list. These governments violate human rights, get involved with conducting business using their power for influence and have failed to stamp out corruption that is hurting the continent the very most. During the cold war period, there used to be a clear distinction between those who advocated democracy and communism. Today, corrupt and dictatorial governments work hand-in-hand with Western leaders leaving no trace on their crimes as a result of endorsements they receive from those western leaders. Western and all civilized countries need to start imposing their influential power on these African leaders if they truly wish for the African people to have the same level of democracy they enjoy in their own homeland.
Gizaw Feleke, Washington DC, USA

African governments are poorly run because of tribalism that is openly practised by the elected presidents. Because our leaders openly abuse resources in favour of their tribesmen, I cannot trust any of the governments except for Botswana and South Africa. No public system works well in Kenya except for the foreign missions based in the country and continue to assist the poor in vast parts of the country.
Duncan Mboyah, Nairobi, Kenya.

For us in Sierra Leone, it is a wonder that having just come out of a senseless civil war, the government led by President Kabbah still does not get it. It boggles the mind that the government would allow the same conditions which caused the war, to still fester. Youth unemployment is over 50% and corruption is at all time high. The two most glaring and ominous of the many factors which led to the war. Never in the history of Sierra Leone has so much money been poured into the country in the form of loans and grants, yet there is precious little to show for it. African governments have to make transparency and accountability their mantra. It is incumbent on the educated citizens of the various African countries with a bold vision for Africa's development to get involved in the political arena, instead of sitting back and proclaiming their non-involvement in the political affairs of their various countries.
Raymond Bamidele Thompson, Sr, Kissy, Sierra Leone

I personally feel bad to see my homeland Ghana portrayed in the media as the world banks success story in Africa. As a Ghanaian citizen, I have nothing to boast of as economic success, inflation is not under control and cost of living is unbearably high most ordinary Ghanaians. Education, which used to be the key to high living standards, is no longer a right but a privilege for the few who can afford to pay for it. Also, the cash and carry health system is more deadly than HIV-aids. And finally, I would like to urge my fellow countrymen to go back to their roots, eat what we grow and grow what we eat, do away with the endless taste for foreign imports and patronise our local industries to enable them grow.
Sai Adams, Berlin, Germany


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