Ranked: The Most Corrupt Countries in the World

When discussing corrupt countries in the world, it is important to distinguish between corruption at a national level and among public officials. Many factors, such as bribery, extortion, and kickbacks, contribute to corruption.

Transparency International (TI) releases the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) every year. This index ranks countries based on how corrupt they perceive to be. 

We have converted the data into an interactive table that includes the most recent CPI score and a ranking out of ten. 

The Most Corrupt Countries in the World

Source: Transparency International

What is CPI Score?

If you want to change your country of residence, then the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is the most important factor you should consider. The CPI ranks countries from 0 to 100, scoring them individually for public sector corruption. A score of 0 means that the country is highly corrupt, and 100 means it is very clean.

1. South Sudan

People prepare collect water in refugee camp, Juba, South Sudan
Juba, South Sudan – February 28th, 2012: Unidentified people prepare plastic containers to collect water in a refugee camp, Juba, South Sudan, February 28, 2012.

South Sudan is currently the most corrupt country in the world. Corruption is a global challenge, and it is not surprising that South Sudan, a country born out of a violent civil war that ended in 2020, is suffering from this malaise. However, corruption in South Sudan has reached an endemic level, where bribery and nepotism are part of everyday life.

Corruption is so prevalent in South Sudan that the government of President Salva Kiir Mayardit established a Ministry of Ethics and Anti-Corruption (MEAC) to help combat the problem. However, critics have accused Kiir of corruption and claim he runs a very nepotistic government. [1]

2. Syria

Woman goes near the area destroyed by the fighting
Homs, Syria – September 22, 2013: A woman walks near a residential area in the city of Homs destroyed in the fighting between the rebels of the Syrian National Army

Syria is a country located in the Middle East. It has an area of 185,180 square kilometers and a population of approximately 17.5 million as of 2020. 

The country has been embroiled in internal conflict since March 2011 and ranks dead second last with a score of 13. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has used violence and intimidation against dissidents and rebel groups. 

3. Somalia

Mogadishu
Bombed buildings in Mogadishu Somalia

Somalia is East Africa’s most corrupt nation and one of the most corrupt in the world.

Corruption is a significant obstacle to business in Somalia, and companies face high risks of encountering bribery or facilitation payments. A lack of enforcement of anti-corruption laws and regulations adds to the challenges faced by companies seeking to conduct business in Somalia.

Corruption remains pervasive within both the public and private sectors in Somalia. Facilitation payments are frequent, and companies must know that government officials may request these payments for even basic government services. Unofficial charges or informal “taxes” levied by government officials are also common, which can add substantial costs to doing business in Somalia. [2]

Bribery is common among Somali officials. Some reports suggest that many civil servants receive no salary, relying instead on bribes to supplement their income [3]. Bribes are requested for services such as issuing licenses and permits, collecting taxes, inspections, customs clearance, and port services. 

While many companies do not report paying bribes, those that have reported paying both large and small bribes across all levels of government.

4. Venezuela

Police officers block a march as Venezuelan opposition activists march in Caracas to keep pressure over Nicolas Maduro government
Caracas, Venezuela-May 12, 2017: Riot police block a march in an almost daily series of sometimes deadly protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro

Corruption in Venezuela is high by world standards. Under President Nicolás Maduro’s leadership, the Venezuelan government has been described as authoritarian, and many political scientists, human rights organizations, and media outlets have stated that the Venezuelan government is authoritarian or undemocratic. [4]

Corruption in Venezuela is a public problem that can be divided into three groups: corruption by public officers (bribery, embezzlement, abuse of power), corruption among citizens (fraud and other financial crimes), and corruption in the private sector (bribery of officials). Venezuelans reported paying bribes worth more than US$1 billion to obtain a public service, and the former national treasurer also admitted this. [5]

In addition, no one really knows how the Venezuelan oil industry is doing; although it’s one of the largest industries in the country, it’s almost entirely opaque. The government controls oil production, and there is no oversight. Government officials have used this lack of transparency to their advantage by funneling money into secret accounts.

In September 2017, President Maduro planned to introduce a new cryptocurrency (a digital currency backed by Venezuela’s oil reserves) called “El Petro.” It was launched in February 2018. The move is reportedly meant to help Venezuela bypass US-led sanctions. But critics have said the currency will be subject to the same mismanagement and corruption as other industries controlled by the Venezuelan government. [6]

5. Yemen

Young Yemeni man holds a rifle n Aden, Yemen
Aden, Yemen – September 14, 2006: Unidentified young Yemeni man holds a rifle on September 14, 2006, in Aden, Yemen.

Yemen’s been in the throes of a civil war since 2014, and it’s now at risk of becoming the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. The conditions have led to rampant corruption, exacerbating the country’s suffering.

For example, according to Amnesty International, conflict parties have co-opted aid agencies, forcing them to give their supplies and leave. These parties have also blocked and diverted aid from getting to those who need it. Corruption has also increased arms trafficking in Yemen, allowing militias to stock up on weapons as they fight for control of the country. [7]

6. North Korea

North Korean leaders and soldiers
April 13, 2018. Mansudae Grand Monument, Pyongyang, North Korea.
Soldiers visiting the huge statues of North Korean leaders.
Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il have special posters and monuments in different parts of the city. The most important of these monuments is the giant sculptures of North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il. All tourists who come to visit the country have to come here and show their respects.

North Korea is the sixth most corrupt country in the world. Corruption is endemic within its society and government. The government of North Korea has been ranked as the most corrupt regime in the world by Transparency International since at least 2012.

Corruption is “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” In North Korea, corruption takes many forms. The regime uses corruption to control the population and maintain power. Bribes are common and expected, even though they are technically illegal. 

For example, bribes are often paid to obviate punishment by state police or to be released from prison or labor camps. Numerous reports indicate that state authorities engage in extortion, especially against traders and merchants who operate in unofficial markets. [8]

The government also engages in petty corruption when dealing with ordinary citizens, such as fines for frivolous offenses against individuals who do not have enough food or other resources to provide for their families.

7. Afghanistan

Gardez in Afghanistan in May 2020
Old armored vehicles, military escorts, guns, and tanks in Gardez in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is ranked as having one of the most corrupt public sectors in the world.

The country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, vowed to fight corruption and introduced reforms to cut down on graft. The country’s Anti-Corruption Unit has also made strides in tackling corruption. However, the situation is fragile, and anti-corruption efforts have remained vulnerable to reversals since the Taliban announced their new government in Afghanistan. Therefore, corruption remains endemic, particularly in the public procurement system and at border posts. [9]

8. Libya

The celebration the 69th Anniversary of Libyan Independence, Tripoli, Libya
Tripoli, Libya – December 24, 2020: A soldier holds a Libyan flag in Martyrs Square, celebrating the 69th Anniversary of Libyan Independence.

Corruption is endemic at all levels of Libya’s government and state institutions. The country’s long-running political and security crises have exacerbated existing problems and led to new forms of corruption, including the diversion of public funds, embezzlement, bribery, and kickbacks.

The lack of accountability for corruption among high-level officials has eroded citizens’ trust in the government, undermined public confidence in state institutions, and hindered public participation in political life.

Corruption remains a big problem to economic growth in Libya. According to Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Libya ranks 170 out of 180 countries on the index, with a score of 17 out of 100. The CPI score is still the same after 4 years in 2022.  

9. Equatorial Guinea

Beautiful view of Makarska
Beautiful view of Makarska, the Velebit mountain in the background

Corruption is an established fact in Equatorial Guinea, a small African country on the west coast. Despite weak institutions, the country is one of the world’s most corrupt — especially since oil was discovered in 1996, and the president’s family owns a large stake in a multinational oil company.

The corruption is so endemic that Transparency International ranks Equatorial Guinea as the world’s most corrupt nation for five consecutive years (2017-2021).

The result has been what some see as an environment of impunity — where stealing from the government and its citizens is both legal and encouraged by officials. This has affected everything; from public services to infrastructure, including schools and hospitals.

It’s hard to imagine how corrupt a country can be without a word being spoken or any movement. But in Equatorial Guinea, silence is key when it comes to corruption. No newspapers, no television news, and very few radio broadcasts are allowed to air and those that are censored to keep them from criticizing the government. [10]

Most of the corruption here is at the top levels of government — politicians who are determined not to give up their power despite economic issues causing widespread poverty for most citizens.

10. Turkmenistan

Monument Arch of Independence at sunset
Monumen Arch of Independence in sunset. Ashkhabad. Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan is a country in Central Asia. It’s bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. The country is famous for its natural gas resources and the struggles of the population to survive economic collapse.

Turkmenistan has been ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International. Many believe the country’s low ranking is due to political oppression and government cover-ups regarding corruption.

In 2011, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stated that he would not tolerate corruption in any form under his rule. However, there is still widespread evidence of bribery and money laundering. 

The country’s citizens are not allowed to travel abroad without permission from the government. For this reason, the majority of trafficking victims from Turkmenistan were identified outside the country. Authorities have reported an increase in child prostitution within the country. 

According to a report by Freedom House, “the lack of education, job opportunities and housing contributes to trafficking.” The western part of the country is a major source for women trafficked for sexual exploitation to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Child trafficking is also a problem in Turkmenistan; boys are trafficked to Turkey for forced begging or street vending. 

Conclusion

One common thread that unites the most corrupt countries is how difficult it is to obtain and maintain political power. Due to this, a lot of these countries are run by authoritarian regimes that put the leader first and their citizens second. Other times political leaders are forced to make unfounded statements, ignore facts and evidence, and use the media for their own good.

References

  1. https://sudantribune.com/article31845/
  2. https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/103437/3/van_den_Boogaard_Vanessa_202011_PhD_thesis.pdf
  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-24046608
  4. https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199756223/obo-9780199756223-0286.xml
  5. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-corruption-idUSKCN1NP1K1
  6. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/02/20/venezuela-launches-the-petro-its-cryptocurrency/
  7. https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/middle-east-and-north-africa/yemen/
  8. https://www.refworld.org/docid/584811b49.html
  9. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/7/taliban-announce-acting-ministers-of-new-government
  10. https://cpj.org/2012/10/equatorial-guinea-indefinitely-suspends-radio-prog/