Bila watu hufiki popote. “Without people or connections you won’t reach anywhere,” said a Tanzanian businessman participating in our recently completed research project on informal networks and corruption.

His words encapsulate something we see time and again in our research on corruption: that bribery is far more than just a brute monetary transaction.

Often more important, and far less studied, are the informal social networks that connect private individuals and public officials.

This report offers an initial insight into the problem of gendered corruption, including sextortion and so-called double bribery, based on interviews with 19 businesswomen in Malawi. Part of a wider research project into procurement corruption, the interviews aimed to explore the extent of gendered corruption as a coercive form of social exchange, as well as the role of informal corrupt networks in magnifying gender-specific inequalities.

Mobile phones and other technologies have transformed the nature and dynamics of informal social networks in Kyrgyzstan. Some scholars argue that new technology (electronisation, digitalisation) helps to prevent corruption and reduce the risk of bribery, informal social networks and bureaucracy. In their view, new technology has the potential to create transparent and efficient ways to access public services.

This article results from the project on Informal governance and corruption - Transcending the Principal Agent and Collective Action Paradigms, funded by the British Academy-DFID Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) programme.

The author's aim in this project was to explore local patterns of informality in Kyrgyzstan in order to understand how relations of power and influence are organised in daily life.