John Pombe Magufuli became president of Tanzania in 2015, and the perception among Tanzanians is that the corruption issues that used to plague the country’s government improved drastically since then. International corruption-watch organizations, however say nothing has really changed.
A May 2017 survey (pdf) by Afrobarometer, a research network, shows that over 70% of Tanzanians believe corruption in the country had decreased “somewhat” or “a lot” in the previous year. This is in stark contrast to the results of a similar survey in 2014, when only 13% reported they believed corruption had decreased in the previous year.
This follows Magufuli’s recent crackdown on corruption in the country. Magufuli came to power in late 2015, following the 2014 resignations and firings of a number of senior government officials involved in a major economic scandal. Magufuli immediately began leading anti-corruption efforts that led to the sacking of hundreds of civil servants who allegedly forged academic certificates, and the arrest of two key players involved in the economic scandal, moves viewed by many as a sign of progress in his agenda to address corruption.
But local perceptions don’t match global measurements. According to Transparency International’s 2016 corruption perception index, Tanzania ranked 117th out of 175 countries in 2013; in 2016, it came in at 116 of 176. The index measures corruption based on assessments and surveys from a variety of organizations that monitor governance in different countries, and assigns a score between 0 (“highly corrupt”) and 100 (“very clean”). From 2013 to 2016, Tanzania’s score actually dropped a point, from 33 to 32.
The difference in Tanzanians’ perceptions of corruption and Transparency International’s might have something to do with a less savory aspect of the Magufuli administration: it’s been accused of stifling opposition views and freedom of speech in general, with its restrictions and closures of media outlets. This shows up in the Afrobarometer survey, too: 71% of Tanzanians said they’d fear retaliation if they had to report corruption to the authorities.