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It is reported that Africa is losing nearly $89bn a year in illicit financial flows such as tax evasion and theft, amounting to more than it receives in development aid, a new UN study shows. The estimate, published on Monday in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) 248-page report, is the UN’s most comprehensive to date for Africa. It shows an increasing trend over time and is higher than most previous estimates.

The question that we need to ask is where is that money going and who is doing the stealing? Why is it that Africa is given little in aid and yet much is taken from the continent using such dubious ways? Should we not call this a scheme by western countries with the aid of our own corrupt bureaucrats and politicians on the continent?

The report indicates that nearly half of the total annual figure of $88.6bn is accounted for by the export of commodities such as gold, diamonds, and platinum. For example, gold accounted for 77 percent of total under-invoiced exports worth $40bn in 2015, it showed.

Understating a commodity’s true value helps conceal trade profits abroad and deprives developing countries of foreign exchange and erodes their tax base, UNCTAD said. There are probably many more ways of stealing besides this method. The truth is that such kind of plans are devised by former colonial rulers with the help of our very own bureaucrats in governments across the continent. They are selfish to the point that they do not care anymore of the masses of poor Africans who are living in abject poverty across the continent. Of what help is it to be told that I live in a country that has the highest deposits of diamonds in the world when there is nothing that trickles back to the people?

The report calls Africa a “net creditor to the world”, echoing economists’ observations that the aid-reliant continent is actually a net exporter of capital because of these trends. What a shame on Africa to be described in such a way? No one seems to care anymore. The elites and our leadership in Africa have all abandoned the people and are dining with our yesteryear colonizers. They are in cahoots with those that are plundering the peoples’ God given resources without an iota of compassion and shame.

Many of our leaders on the continent have risen to power through the help in one way or another, of these imperial/colonialist masters. They are, therefore, obedient to them.

“Illicit financial flows rob Africa and its people of their prospects, undermining transparency and accountability and eroding trust in African institutions,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi. Our national constitutions are in many cases, carbon copies of what obtains in the imperial/colonialist west, without checks and balances to hold these miscreants accountable. Many of these constitutions have been written in such a way that they do not favour the people but instead, they protect these same political thugs.

Junior Davis, head of policy and research at UNCTAD’s Africa division, told Reuters news agency the figure was likely an underestimate, citing data limitations. This is just a tip of the iceberg. One just needs to look at a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to understand what I mean. Looting has been going on in the Congo since independence, unabated. The people of Congo have been under perpetual strangulation by a combination of both the imperial powers and the compromised local leadership that seeks to serve the interests of their western masters. Apparently, ever since we met the white people 500 years ago, Africa has given everything, but they are still taking. Where would the whole western world be without Africa? They take everything from us, our cocoa, timber, platinum, gold, diamonds, and oil. Many of these western countries have zero resources and are completely dependent on Africa for everything. Yet you hear them arrogantly say Africa is the one that needs them. Wake up Africa and smell the coffee.

Tackling illicit flows of money is a priority for the UN, whose General Assembly adopted a resolution on this in 2018. The report urges African countries to draw on the report to present “renewed arguments” in international forums. By asking the same leaders that are committing these crimes against the people of Africa to police themselves, will achieve nothing. These people are rotten to the core, and no words can best describe them.

As for the destination of this stolen wealth, the UNCTAD report is very clear that it goes to western countries. Apparently, these are the same countries who pretend they are the benefactors of Africa. They rob us and then return a small percentage of that stolen money back as aid. There is need to examine this so-called international system which I believe is built on unfairness and crookedness. African countries should start looking at this issue seriously. We also need to start asking hard questions and take our leadership to account for our natural resources in a more serious way.

If the western world is really serious about ending corruption in Africa, why do they accept those illicit monies stolen from Africa to find safe havens in their countries? Why don’t they return those monies back to their countries of origin? Or, arrest those corrupt leaders when they fly into their capitals to enjoy the money. The talk of anti-corruption from a western perspective smacks of hypocrisy in its fulness. They are not sincere at all; it is just a stage show they will be putting up to fool unsuspecting African people.

Our opposition parties on the continent are not playing a constructive role either, they seem to be fighting to take power and continue doing the same as their predecessors and enrich themselves, their families and their friends. This is so because we do not see any changes in most instances where power had changed hands but the status quo remained.


Dr Mustafa Mheta

Researcher/Head of Africa Desk

Media Review Network


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