Corruption and clientelism in the government, security and judicial institutions of developing and war-torn countries seriously affects the poor and hinders state effectiveness to deliver services, the rule of law and security. This article provides an overview of systemic corruption, patronage and nepotism; petty bribery (administrative corruption); and state capture. This is followed by an analysis of international anti-corruption strategies as a response to curb these mentioned drivers of corruption.Subsequently, comparative methods are prescribed to compare corruption in various countries. Initially, cases of strong political will to fulfil anti-corruption reform in Hong Kong and Singapore are covered. These are compared with several cases of narco-states infiltrated from powerful drug cartels perverting the judiciary, the rule of law and security are presented to identify the main challenges of namely state capture and systemic corruption. Public administration reform, civil service reform and meritocracy and pay reform are addressed as further strategies to curb corruption. The final part provides a roadmap of anti-corruption strategy based on the main causes and practices of corruption, and reform efforts to mitigate them, as identified in the paper. This is based on four areas: raising awareness; prevention; prosecution and sanctions; and detection. The purpose of such an approach is to provide solutions based on the main forms of corruption and clientelism, as analysed in the paper.