As national leaders meet at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa this week, a group of civil society experts has issued a set of recommendations to address illicit financial flows (IFFs), an issue of critical importance to regional development.
Titled ‘Accelerating the IFF Agenda for African Countries (the Accelerated IFF Agenda)’, the purpose of the document is to highlight for African leaders 14 steps that can be taken to jumpstart efforts to address IFFs. Among the recommendations are suggestions to establish a multi-agency approach to fight IFFs, to collect information to identify corporate ownership, and certain tax-related measures.
This was contained in a release issued by the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Abuja, Nigeria and one of the experts in the group, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani).
Robbing the African continent of more than $70 billion per year, IFFs represent one of the largest problems facing Africa today. The international community has already recognised IFFs as a major impediment to development, incorporating reduction of IFFs into the Financing for Development Conference’s Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Likewise, the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa published a watershed report on the subject in 2015, and the ambitious African Union Agenda 2063 highlights the importance of eliminating illicit flows as a key way to increase domestic resource mobilisation.
“Development experts have identified domestic resource mobilization as the most crucial ingredient in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals,” noted Global Financial Integrity President, Raymond Baker.
“Illicit financial flows are corrosive to development efforts and curtail the ability to capture domestic resources. It will require energetic and concerted action from governments to fix the problem and the Accelerated IFF Agenda identifies effective steps to kick-start the process. ”
“African agency is critical to invent a future without illicit financial flows,” said Project Director on TrustAfrica’s Nigeria Anti-Corruption and Criminal Justice Reform Fund, Donald Ideh.
Deputy Executive Director of Tax Justice Network-Africa (TJN-A) in Kenya, Jason Rosario Braganza, added that “The accelerated IFF agenda for African countries comes at a time where there is vacuum in global leadership on the issues of IFFs.
“The 14 point agenda integrates fundamental political and institutional steps that African governments and African multilateral agencies have begun taking to curb IFFs from the continent. The Accelerated IFF Agenda is timely as African governments take up the mantle of leadership to track it, stop it, and get it in order to further the continents’ development agenda.”
Chief Executive Officer of the Pan African Lawyers’ Union (PALU), Donald Deya, commented on one way in which the Accelerated IFF Agenda addresses governance and accountability concerns and why the African Union should take note of the document in its discussions.
“The AU has taken a lead role in recognising the problem of IFFs on the continent,” he stated. “It can take a step further by including IFF – measures in the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), stating loud and clear that good governance means addressing IFFs. I am in Addis Ababa this week to commence this discussion with government representatives, on behalf of our colleagues.”
“Many IFFs arise from corruption within countries,” added the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Centre (CISLAC), Abuja, Nigeria, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani). “Establishing open procurement systems, using common, accessible approaches like the Open Contracting Data Standard, ensure that a government is not contributing to the theft of its people’s future.”
Director of the Centre Régional Africain pour le Dévelopement Endogène et Communautaire (CRADEC), Jean Mballa Mballa, spoke about the group’s plans for outreach in the coming months, stating that “We look forward to discussing this list with senior government officials and civil society groups in all African countries. Some countries may already be working on some of these actions but have yet to embrace others. Nonetheless, each is a critical precursor to more advanced actions to combat illicit financial flows.”
The group of experts represents organisations based in Africa and the United States. Funding for the endeavour, which will include outreach to governments, civil society groups, the media and lawmakers, is provided by the government of Sweden.