Africa is estimated to be losing an estimated US$50 billion every year to illicit financial flows (IFFs) and this figure has been growing. The estimated US$50 billion may indeed be a conservative figure as there is no accurate publicly available data on all transactions. The amount of money that Africa loses to IFFs is approximately double the amount of Official Development Assistance that the continent receives annually. IFFs refer to money that is illegally earned, transferred and or utilized. Much of IFFs in Africa is a result of the commercial activity of multinational corporations operating across the continent. It is without doubt mining; gas and oil companies operating in Africa are key actors in IFFs. IFFs are made possible through secrecy, tax havens; money laundering and transfer pricing among other techniques. The situation in countries like Zimbabwe and Angola is dire as there are no up to date statistics to compute the possible tax or revenue losses that the countries suffer as a result of IFFs.
African Ministers of Finance set up a High Level Panel (HLP) on Illicit Financial Flows in 2012 and it is chaired by H.E Mr Thabo Mbeki. The panel was set up having realised the negative impacts of IFFs including; reduced tax base, reducing capital available for infrastructure and social development programmes, draining foreign currency reserves; negating investment inflows and domestic resource mobilisation efforts. IFFs also contribute to continued African dependency on aid; conflict; and weakened democratic accountability institutions. The HLP on IFFs’ mandate is to investigate the nature and scale of IFFs and put forward recommendations for the continent to tackle IFFs.
The HLP will launch its final report on Sunday, February 1 2015 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The launch of the Report will follow its prior submission to the Assembly of the African Union (AU) on 31 January 2015. Civil society organisations across Africa call on the AU to take the necessary steps to ensure that the recommendations of the HLP are adopted and implemented. This is critical to the future development of the continent and its ability to self-finance that development. The report and recommendations of the HLP on IFFs is coming at a time when there are reports that over 70% of the AU budget remains funded by Western donors. It is high time that Africa takes superintendence over her own development.
The call for action is not just targeted at the AU but extends to the international community as there is realisation that IFFs require a global solution. Africa alone cannot resolve this challenge given the interconnectedness of today’s global economy
Publish What You Pay has for over decade called for a more open and transparent extractive sector. Information on beneficial owners of mining companies and strong transparency and accountability principles within national legislation will go some way in ensuring that IFFs are addressed.