Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 15 July 2015 (ECA) – “Many of our governments will only act on this [problem of illicit financial flows] if there is pressure from the people,” said a much applauded Chairman of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) from Africa, in a well attended side event of the third International Conference on Financing for Development (FFD3).
The discussion moderated the Deputy Executive Secretary for Knowledge Generation of the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Mr Abdalla Hamdok, grouped eminent discussants invited to reflect on practical ways for the continent to implement the recommendations of the Mbeki-led Panel’s report titled ‘Track it! Stop it! Get it!’ The report that was officially presented to the 8th Joint AUC-ECA Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, last March in the Ethiopian capital. It blames Africa’s loss of over US$50 billion per year since 2010, to IFFs via shady business transactions including kickbacks and other forms of abusive of public office, criminal activity such as drug and money trafficking and money laundering, as well as tax evasion, the distortion of money transfer charges and over-billing (especially by transnational firms).
“We can only get cooperation [from States in tackling IFFs] under duress,” said ECA’s Executive Secretary of ECA Mr Carlos Lopes, in consonance with Mr Mbeki’s earlier remarks at the FFD3 side event. “In the case of Africa, all the discussions about domestic resource mobilisation are tied up to the way we deal with this phenomenon,” Mr Lopes went on, while noting the critical role that civil society, the media and politicians, especially parliamentarians, have to play in keeping the pressure up.
“If you stop the bleeding, you can start healing and move on to other things,” reckoned the African Union Commission’s Chairperson, Mr Erastus Mwencha, who added that the IFF report should be a strong part of the Financing for Development agenda and must get the support of governments, private sector and international community working together.
Representing the governments of Norway and Sweden that have highly contributed to the efforts to stem IFFs from Africa, were Mr Bjørn Brede Hansen and Ms Charlotte Gornitzka, respectively. They reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to working with Africa to tackle IFFs. Norway, for instance would no longer allow room for the creation of anonymous bank accounts while Sweden will keep engaging with Africa’s stakeholders through capacity building.
Such capacity building happens to be one of the most important crosscutting issue from the High Level Panel’s findings on the field, according to the Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation, Mr Emmanuel Nnadozie, who worked closely with the Mbeki-team at the time he served the ECA.
Civil Society Organisations used the occasion to praise ECA and its partners for their unprecedented move to involve them in the important issue of IFFs.
The other key speakers during the discussion were: Zambia’s Minister of Finance Zambia – Mr Alexander Chikwanda, the Acting Chief Economist and Vice-President at the African Development Bank – Mr Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa and the Co-Founder of Third World Network (a partner organisation of the ‘Stop the Bleeding’ Africa campaign) – Mr Yao Graham.
“Stop the bleeding" campaign
The side event was jointly convened by ECA and African Civil Society Networks that joined the fight against IFFs with a campaign launched in June 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya. It is made up of: the Tax Justice Network-Africa, Third World Network-Africa, Africa Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD), the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), the African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) and Trust Africa, supported and joined by the Global Alliance for Tax Justice.
The Network came in handy with a pledge to which the panellists and other key figures signed. Here is the content off the pledge:
Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) from Africa are directly damaging Africa’s development prospects. It is time to stop them.
The ‘Stop the Bleeding’ campaign supports the findings and recommendations of the AU/ECA high Level Panel Report on Illicit Financial Flow from Africa.
This call is for Regional and International action to do the same in order to stop Illicit Financial Flows from Africa.
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