Understanding “Corruption” in Guinea-Bissau’s Public Sector: Service or Disservice to the Transformation of the Population?


The theme of corruption has dominated the literature surrounding Africa and African governance, primarily narrated by the Global North, leaving no room to present the African standpoint. Taking the public sector of Guinea-Bissau as a case study, this thesis explores what is perceived as corruption in Guinea-Bissau’s capital and how the civil servants justify their conduct as a direct result of institutional dysfunction. Using qualitative data, this article interviewed civil servants to understand: 1) how they attained their jobs and 2) how their careers have aided their personal development as well as those around them. Establishing these factors indicate whether they reached their jobs through corruption and how a role as a civil servant elevates their opportunities and those around them. The findings highlighted three overarching themes: 1) solidarity, 2) obligation and 3) self-interest in which participants used to warrant their corrupt conduct. The author argues that the fraudulent conduct of civil servants is an illustration of the matrix between colonial mentality and Bissau-Guinean morality. Their behaviour may not pose the solution, but it is practical and necessary for the distribution of public resources in the short-term. The thesis will conclude by explaining that the long-term solution is to deal with the root cause of this issue that lays in the institutional dysfunction present in Guinea-Bissau. The state’s inability to reflect the needs of the masses encourages citizens to take on the responsibilities of the country, even when their role does not allow for such discretion.

Keywords: public sector, corruption, Guinea-Bissau, institutional dysfunction, neo-colonialism.