UN Africa head calls for push to tackle economic crime

13 Aug 18

Combatting bribery, money laundering and tax evasion should be a priority for African countries to transition to ‘middle income status’, the executive secretary of the United Nation Economic Commission for Africa has urged.

Vera Songwe has called on African governments to show leadership to investigate and prosecute economic crimes and companies that evade taxes.

Songwe said at a two-day African leadership forum last week: “Countries should also build human and technological capacities of agencies tasked with tackling illicit financial flows, and institute information sharing and collaboration between relevant government agencies and ministries.”

She added that “for a continent that needs substantial financial resources to meet its development needs”, there should be more focus on transparency and a “collective effort” from auditors, accountability agencies and the media to tackle illicit flows of money.

A report on illicit financial flows by the research organisation Global Financial Integrity, from 2013, showed Africa lost close to $1.4 trillion from 1980 and 2009 via licit and illicit means, which included bribery and tax evasion.

The report also found illicit financial flows were the “main driving force” behind the net drain of resources from Africa – of US$1.2 - 1.3 trn on an inflation-adjusted basis.

The UN has estimated that the amount that Africa loses money laundering and tax evasion is roughly double the official development assistance that it receives.

The organisation also said the illicit flows outweigh the $42bn that the continent received through foreign direct investments in 2017.

Songwe also called for more integrity and transparency among leaders, public officials and private institutions by declaring their assets and urged that countries sign up to the international tax information treaties to enable exchange of information.

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