Corruption - A social disease (Part 171): Namibia at the cross roads

10 March 2021 | Columns

Johan Coetzee

Namibia's average corruption rating by Transparency International (TI), i.e. all ratings added up and the sum divided by the number of years, is 4.86.

For the previous decade (2011-2020) the average is 4.95 out of 10 and for the first decade (1998-2007) the average is 4.89. The difference between the averagea of the first decade is an improvement of 0.06, which translates to 0.6%.

It can be said that this ‘improvement’ is insignificant.

Based on the average over 23 years, if Namibia has been employed at a private sector institution or was an entrepreneur, Namibia would not have been employable or not a going concern. In terms of the long-term trend, it can be deduced that Namibia is performing mediocre and at a substandard level in terms of global standards and Namibian perceptions about tackling corruption.

The mode, meaning the value that occurs the most often is 5.3. It occurs four times (in 1998, 1999, 2015 and 2018).

The value that occurs the second most is 4.5. It occurs three times (2007-2009).

The value in the middle of the 23 years, in other words the median is 4.5 (2009).

The mode and the median are more meaningful than the average because the average is an equalisation of distributed values over 23 years. If a huge difference exists between the highest and the lowest values, the average does not appropriately represent these extreme values.

A good example of this pitfall, is using the average of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, meaning dividing everything that is produced in a country by the number of people. Namibia has been classified by the World Bank as a middle-income country. This classification does not account appropriately for our poverty challenge. At least one third of people in Namibia live in poverty.

It can be deduced that 4.5 is the value that represents statistically the status or level of corruption the most appropriately. Based on the value of 4.5/10, it can be interpreted that Namibia is perceived by Namibians in investment, academia and business (the three groups surveyed by TI) as 55% corrupt.

It is critical to mention that these perceptions are not those of foreigners that could have a limited understanding about corruption and governance in Namibia. The perceptions recorded by TI is only of Namibians.


When analysing TI ratings for the period 1998-2020, some corruption cases are worth mentioning to contextualise these ratings.

During 1997/1998, the National Housing Enterprise corruption scandal became public and were captured in the perceptions of the 1999 rating.

The 'darkest' year has been 2004, with a rating of 4.1 out of 10.

From 2011, the rating slowly improved, with a rating of 5.3 in 2015 and 2018.

When analysing the long-term trend, sub-trends and/or patterns can be identified.

During 1998-2002 an upward five-year sub-trend can be observed that contains the highest score ever of 5.7 during 2002.

In 2003 a huge, reduced rating of 10% from 5.7 to 4.7 can be observed. Probably the main contributor to the latter is the Social Security Commission scandal, which took Namibians by surprise.

For the period 2003-2012, after the previous upward sub-trend, a relative stable or 'depressed’ 10-year trend can be observed, ending with a rating of 4.4. The latter trend is the most dominant trend and cements the substandard performance in terms of what Namibians perceive to be a lack of major success against corruption.

What happened during this period may have laid the foundation for the current structural deterioration of our ‘weak’ public watchdogs, like the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) and Office of the Ombudsman, and ‘weak’ public institutions (e.g., TransNamib, Air Namibia, Roads Authority and Road Contractors Company), political abuse of power and increasing executive power over the legislative and the failure of the mass housing project, in which signs of corruption can also be detected.

The years 2013-2016/17 can be interpreted as an upward sub-trend that took off with a rating of 4.8 and debatably ended either during 2016 (5.2) or 2017 (5.1).

Another sub-trend, quite stable, started during 2017/18 and ended with the latest rating of 5.1 in 2020.

Namibia has mostly been one of the top six least corrupt African countries. However, a rating of mostly below 5 out of 10 (12 out of 18 years) since 2003, indicate Namibia is internationally mediocre, not good but not bad, just ‘hanging in there’.

A rating of 5.1 may be appropriate for Africa, however: Is it feasible to attract domestic and foreign investment?

Why investment? Namibia is experiencing the largest global and national economic contraction since 2008, a depression (more than six quarters of negative economic ‘growth’).

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