Rwanda, a land-locked country in East Africa, is home to more than 12 million people and has one of the highest population densities in Africa at 26,338 km².  The country has made considerable progress since the Genocide against the Tutsi killed more than one million people in 1994.  In addition to its mountain gorillas and 1,000 hills, Rwanda is famous for good governance, innovative and visionary policies, home grown solutions and a lack of corruption.  In 2019, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, presented the people of Rwanda with the International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award.  An iconic work of art, a steel structure in the form of a hand with an open palm was unveiled to symbolise transparency, openness and the values that underpin the struggle against corruption (Figure 1).

The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is an index published annually by Transparency International since 1995 which ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys[i]. Transparency International note that many of the countries near the bottom of the CPI have been severely affected by violent conflict in recent years.  Such low scores indicate that bribery, stealing of public funds, and profiteering by authorities is an everyday fact of life in these countries with severe social and economic impacts.

Conflict and corruption are closely related and even in countries at peace, high levels of corruption can lead to instability. According to the World Bank, the likelihood of violent conflict increases when governments do not adequately prevent corruption or ensure justice[ii]. Corruption, and impunity for corruption, undermines the legitimacy of state institutions, and the impact of corruption on job opportunities and social cohesion can also lead to instability: corruption fuels grievances which can spill over into violence.  Furthermore, there is a disproportionate impact of corruption on the poor and vulnerable.

Figure 1: Conflict fatalities versus average Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

The relationship between corruption and conflict can be quantified using country level data. The Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) is a data collection program on organized violence and armed conflict with a history of almost 40 years, based at Uppsala University in Sweden[iii]. A scatter plot of the total number of fatalities versus the average CPI (2000-2019) clearly shows that countries perceived as being corrupt (low CPI value) tend to have high fatalities (Figure 2). The linear relationship suggests that an improvement of one point on the CPI scale reduces the number of fatalities by 4.5% on average. At the other end of the spectrum, countries such as Australia, the Netherlands, and Germany, have few fatalities due to conflict and have almost eradicated corruption.

Figure 2: Global Peace Index (GPI) versus the average Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

The benefits of peace are widespread and can be assessed using the global peace index (GPI) calculated by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), which measures the relative position of nations’ peacefulness[iv]. The GPI ranks 172 independent states and territories according to their levels of peacefulness and sadly shows that over the past decade, there is a trend of increased global violence and less peacefulness.  The economic value of building peace can be quantified as an improvement of one unit on the GPI is associated with an 48.6% increase in GNI.  Plotting GPI versus CPI shows how peace is correlated with corruption (Figure 3). Again, the countries with civil unrest and conflict, such as Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia and South Sudan stand out as both lacking peace (high GPI) and suffering from corruption (low CPI). At the other end of the spectrum, countries such as Australia, the Netherlands, and Germany, are both peaceful (low GPI) and have little corruption (high CPI).  

Figure 3: Corruption Perception Index (CPI) versus Gross National Income (GNI).

It is therefore no surprise that Rwanda, having actively focused on reducing corruption and enhancing transparency over several years, has managed to successfully increase stability and build peace. Aegis Trust has played a critical role in this achievement with its mission to work towards the prediction, prevention and ultimate elimination of genocide. This work is continuing through support from the EU funded project ISOOKO, which explores the potential of digital technologies to support peace education.

Given the current level of Gross National Income per capita, Rwanda is not only performing well in terms of absolute CPI but it is also much less corrupt than would be expected based on its economic output. A measure of relative corruption can be calculated by plotting the CPI versus the gross national income (GNI). Countries that fall above the linear fit, red line in Figure 4, are less corrupt than expected and those that fall below the line are more corrupt than expected based on their wealth (Figure 4). Rwanda (RWA) is almost 30 CPI points higher than expected based on its wealth, an achievement comparable with New Zealand, Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Denmark. Rwanda’s success in stamping out corruption has demonstrated that economic wealth is not a necessary condition, nor that income status is an excuse for accepting corruption.  The benefits of peace and a lack of conflict are both considerable and within everyone’s reach. 

[i] Transparency International. https://www.transparency.org

[ii] World Development Report (2011). World Bank, Washington DC. https://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDRS/Resources/WDR2011_Full_Text.pdf

[iii] Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP). https://ucdp.uu.se

[iv] Global Peace Index. http://visionofhumanity.org/