WE all have that relative or family member who “borrows” something without our knowledge, and when we find out we smile through gritted teeth and wave it away much too nonchalantly, knowing full well the chances of recovery are dim—after all we are family, no?
That is the “good” kind of borrowing. A ranking of the “bad” kind of borrowing—where a stranger is involved— has found that many of the countries with the highest reported incidence of theft are in sub-Saharan Africa.
What people steal tells you a lot about what they aspire to, what they need and what they covet. Seriously. ( See: Sometimes, to understand Africa, you need to study what its thieves steal the most).
All classes of people are also involved in the theft industry: this Mail & Guardian story found that Africa’s burgeoning middle class is also just as adept as the hoi polloi at helping themselves to others’ property.
However, in terms of the actual incidence of theft, pollster Gallup in 2013 surveyed 134 countries, and found that about one in seven adults reported they, or another household member, had been relieved of money or property over the last 12 months.
While the incidence of theft varied widely—from 1% in hard-to-locate countries such as Tajikistan, they also stretched to as high as 50%. Unfortunately, all the leading ten countries with the highest incidence are to found south of the Sahara.
Sierra Leone led the pinching ranking, with 50% of its residents reporting they or a relative had been separated from their earthly possessions.
Uganda came second with 44% incidence, while Botswana and Malawi reported a 41% incidence rate. Tanzania (35%) rounded out the “Top Five”:
The theft survey follows another done by Gallup on where residents were most likely to feel secure in. Latin America and the Caribbean scored lowest on the Law and Order Index, which the firm described as based on confidence in the police, feelings of personal safety and self-reported incidence of theft.
DR Congo, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia residents reported feeling unsafe while walking in the night, a perception repeated to a Mail & Guardian Africa reporter while on a recent visit to southern Africa.
In a related earlier survey looking at confidence in the judiciary, less than half (48%) of all sub-Saharan Africans said they had confidence in their judiciaries, down from 55% in 2010.
However, these confidence levels were seen to compare favourably with those in the European Union (49%), and were better than former Soviet Union countries (28%) and Latin America (35%).
Malawi—after a high court rejected then-president Joyce Banda’s move to annul elections—ranked highest, with 69% saying they had confidence in their judiciary, followed by Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger. Botswana and Kenya—which also had a reformed judiciary deliver a big election decision— also ranked highly.