Corruption and freedom – is there a correlation?

corruption and freedomThe charts I have shared recently – last week on the Corruption Perceptions Index and this week on the Freedom House Freedom Rating – got me thinking: is there a correlation between corruption and freedom?

The chart below looks at data for each country in Africa that appears on both the Corruption Perceptions Index and the Freedom House Ratings. Each circle represents a country. Those further to the left are the countries with more perceived corruption, those to the right have less. The countries that are higher up on the chart have more freedom, lower have less freedom.


There’s a very clear correlation. Countries with more freedom have less corruption, and those with less freedom have more corruption. We must remember, of course, that correlation does not mean causation, so we cannot conclude from this chart that a lack of freedom causes corruption, only that more restrictive African countries generally have more corruption, and vice versa.

There is one clear outlier here. Rwanda has, according to these sources, a low level of freedom and a low level of perceived corruption. This can be seen as a warning to anyone who sees Rwanda as a model developmental state: the country is a rare exception. No other country in Africa has managed to combine a restrictive political environment with a low level of corruption.

Tanzania’s situation is also interesting. The country is right in the middle of the chart, but the key question is for President Magufuli. His first three months in office have seen a high profile drive against corruption, but we are yet to see whether this will be matched by moves to protect civic space and political freedoms.