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JOHANNESBURG, April 25 (Reuters) - Bribery, theft and other kinds of fraud cost African governments and companies at least $10.9 billion last year, auditing firm KPMG estimated in a study on Wednesday, a sobering reminder of the challenges facing the fast-growing continent.
KPMG said it arrived at the figure after scouring English-language news reports and databases of fraud cases from 2011.
The actual cost of fraud is likely much higher, given that the study was limited to information in the public domain, said Petrus Marais, a forensic investigator with KPMG.
However, he said many governments appear to be making headway in fighting fraud and other types of corruption.
"There is a strong sense that the tide is turning. More and more countries are making combating corruption an issue of government."
The inaugural "Africa Fraud Barometer" found a total of 875 cases of fraud in Africa last year.
Management were responsible for $4.5 billion worth of fraud, or 40 percent of the total for the year.
Governments and the public sector were the most frequently impacted by fraud, accounting for 44 percent of all cases in the first half of 2011 and 39 percent in the second half.
South Africa and Nigeria had the highest number of reported cases.
The role of a free press in digging up corruption was critical to fighting fraud, Marais said. (Reporting by David Dolan, editing by Ed Stoddard, Ron Askew)