The Connections Between Poverty and Corruption in Liberia

Poverty and Corruption in LiberiaIn 2022, Liberia had a Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of 26 on a 100 scale, making it the fifth most corrupt country in Africa. Corruption has several links to poverty. Forbes explains that “poverty invites corruption, while corruption deepens poverty. Corruption both causes and thrives upon weaknesses in key economic, political and social institutions.” Considering the connection that exists between poverty and corruption in Liberia, several organizations are taking action to address corruption in the country.

Poverty and Corruption in Liberia

Corruption impacts the distribution of resources in a country, stiffens economic growth and slows down poverty reduction rates. On top of this, corruption “reduces the state’s ability to provide quality public services.” It is also one of the causes of decreased spending on the pro-poor plan rolled out in 2018 when current President George Weah took office.

As it stands, Liberia notes a high poverty rate. About 44% of Liberians lived below the poverty line in 2020, according to the United Nations Development Programme, and a quarter of the population suffered severe multidimensional poverty. High rates of poverty in Liberia are the result of two deadly civil wars the country observed from 1989-1997 and 1999-2003 and are compounded by low levels of education along with corruption, among other issues.

The people of Liberia feel that the police force is the most corrupt institution, followed by the government. However, these perceptions decreased between 2015 and 2019. Corruption in Liberia has in fact reduced. From 2015 to 2019, the overall bribery rate decreased from 69% to 53%. Public educational bribery dropped by 5% in this period and public health bribery dropped by almost 10%.  Among the police force, bribery declined from 60% to 42%. These improvements are in part due to the work of organizations aiming to address corruption in Liberia.

2 Organizations Addressing Corruption in Liberia

  1. Student Unification Party (SUP). “Twelve years later and its legacy is corruption.” These are the words of a Vanguard Student Unification Party (SUP) member on July 21, 2022, during a rally announcing upcoming plans to halt corruption in Liberia. SUP is a political ideology group that gained prominence in the late 1970s following Liberia’s historical rice riots. The student-led organization is born out of the University of Liberia and has made headlines for its bountiful demonstrations, petitions and pleas to the state. Last year, SUP arranged a string of protests disputing rising food, transportation and gas prices — an incident that uncannily resembled Liberia’s past events. SUP’s “Fix The Country Campaign” is a recent attempt to address corruption in Liberia. As SUP celebrated its 52nd anniversary on December 9, 2022, SUP stressed the importance of implementing new strategies that could eradicate corruption once and for all.
  2. Liberia CSOs Anti-Corruption Coalition. The Liberia CSOs Anti-Corruption Coalition (LCACC) was founded in 2019 with the help of USAID. LCACC aims to increase accountability for corruption and create a more transparent government. More than 60 young emerging leaders from West Africa participate in the Anti-Corruption Ambassador Training Program where they receive mentoring from other activists working to eradicate corruption in Liberia. Grassroots advocacy is used to foster fiscal transparency, political advocacy and natural governance.

In Liberia, corruption impacts several aspects of society and deepens conditions of poverty. However, the overall rate of corruption in Liberia has the potential to significantly decrease as these organizations continue to take action.

– Dorothy Quanteh
Photo: Flickr