Illicit Financial Flows

Although we don’t have an exact figure for how much money illegally flows out of Africa, it’s somewhere in the nature of $50 billion a year, although this is likely a conservative figure.[1] These are the proceeds of crime, corruption, and corporate thievery like tax evasion. Traditional corruption, like bribery and embezzlement, actually only accounts for a small percentage of this total - roughly 3%, according to Global Financial Integrity. Criminal activity, like trafficking in people, wildlife and narcotics, accounts for 30-35%. By far, the biggest share of these illicit flows are from commercial transactions by multinational companies, roughly 60-65%.[2] Even though this is the case, much of the attention and policy prescriptions for the problem address the first two problems.

One of Africa Action’s core goals is breaking the chains of economic exploitation and impoverishment by exposing and confronting the inequities and devastation and by promoting alternatives. The role of both African and Western governments in perpetuating illicit financial flows at the expense of the African people is at the heart of this fight. Put simply, the money that leaves Africa illicitly could be going to economic development, poverty alleviation, and provision of social services. If we care about people, we should care that an unthinkable amount of money is being diverted from where it belongs. If we want responsible, accountable governance and to stop the unchecked theft by those in power, then we have to fight this.

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