30th March, 2014
Former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, said in Abuja that African countries lose between 50 billion dollars and 60 billion dollars annually through illicit financial flows (IFF). He said this when presenting the Progress Report of the High-Level Panel on IFF at the ongoing 7th AU-ECA Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance.
Mbeki was Chairman of the panel set up by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in 2012 to look into the nature of illicit funds in the continent. In order to understand the impact of this phenomenon on Africa, we decided that we carry out a number of country case studies in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Algeria, Mauritius and South Africa.
He explained that the huge sums did not include capital flight, saying it came from proceeds of commercial transactions through multinational companies, criminal activities and corruption.
He lamented that the monies which would have been used to provide infrastructure and social amenities for the poor African population were transferred to other countries leaving the continent in poverty. Mbeki said the situation was occasioned by the weakened tax regime of some countries in the continent, adding that proper mechanism needed to be put in place to check the trend.
“In terms of the phenomenon of mis-pricing, the estimates are between 50 and 60 billion dollars which the continent loses as illicit financial flows, with capital flight not included. From our study, it is quite clear that the continent is losing huge volume of capital which would have been used for investment and the process of industrialisation,” he said.
Mbeki said the study was conducted to enable the panel draw up a comprehensive report generally on the continent, as it was not possible for it to prepare a country-by-country report. He added that the panel’s findings showed the main beneficiaries of IFFs from African countries were developed countries and emerging economies, which were Africa’s major trading partners.
According to him, illicit financial flow had posed developmental challenges on the continent, in terms of draining hard currency reserve, reduced tax collection, deepening income gap, depleting investment and weakened governance.
Amara Konneh, the Liberian Finance Minister, said IFF had drained the continent of hard currency and deprived her of resources needed for human capital development. Konneh urged African leaders to put in place measures to stop further outflow as well as ways of recovering what had been taken away. “Multinationals are responsible for the outflow, through trade mis-invoicing and tax haven, by taking advantage of some countries’ weak tax regime,’’ he said.