Corruption Crossroads? Rising Perceptions of Graft Weaken Citizen Trust, Threatens Botswana's Democratic Standing

Corruption is widely considered one of the greatest impediments to sustainable development in African countries. Corruption hinders macro-economic growth by weakening governance structures and diluting the positive effects of investments. At the micro level, corruption can trap the poorest, who are least likely to have alternatives to state provision of services, in a downward spiral. Botswana has long been considered one of Africa’s least corrupt countries and top performers in democratic practice and good governance. But while Transparency International’s (2019) Corruption Perceptions Index continues to rank Botswana as best on the continent, other observers have questioned this reputation. In this paper we use Afrobarometer survey data to explore citizens’ perceptions of corruption in Botswana. We find that far more people see corruption increasing than decreasing and that perceptions of corruption in the Presidency and Parliament have risen sharply over the past decade. Fewer Batswana approve of how the government is handling the anticorruption fight, and while many believe ordinary people can help fight corruption, a majority say that people risk retaliation if they report corruption to the authorities. A correlation analysis suggests that perceptions of corruption, especially in the Presidency, are strongly associated with less popular trust in public institutions and less satisfaction with democracy.