“Stop the Bleeding: Campaign to End Illicit Financial Flows from Africa” is the attention-grabbing name of a new campaign launched in June. Aimed at halting the enormous outflow of the continent’s monetary resources, the initiative is envisaged as a campaign rooted in African experiences and reinforced by global Africa solidarity linkages. It is being carried out by TrustAfrica and a group of African civil society organisations with the aim of mobilising students and youth, trade unions and grassroots social movements to raise their voices for change.
The campaign aims to broaden the conversation on illicit financial flows (IFF) beyond specialist circles in order to generate support for public policy measures. Progress was made on this front when the Report of the High Level Panel (HLP) on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa was presented at the 24th AU Summit in Addis Ababa and adopted by African leaders. The report echoed civil society voices from across the continent in highlighting illicit financial flows as a serious threat to inclusive development in Africa and calling for urgent practical policy action to stop the haemorrhage.
According to the HLP report, illicit outflows increased at an alarming rate of 20.2% per year from 2002 to– 2011(Global Financial Integrity calculations). The panel noted that the dependence of African economies on natural resources extraction makes them particularly vulnerable to IFFs, but also that the digital economy and new technologies are making it easier, adding a troubling new dimension to the problem.
The report singles out the issue of weak national and regional capacities as a major obstacle in efforts to curb IFFs, making it clear it is ultimately a political issue. The last few years has seen a notable emergence of civil society groups across the continent who have joined together to rally against IFFs. Indeed, IFFs have become a key part of Agenda 2063 conversations on Africa’s development as well as in ongoing processes such as the Financing for Development and the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
The HLP report presents an opportunity for African CSOs and partners to forge a coherent continental architecture for tackling IFFs. Past responses from have borrowed, sometimes uncritically, the concepts and proposed solutions from initiatives advanced by the G20 and the OECD – responses based largely on the problem as experienced by global North economies. The challenge will be to instead root the work in in the specificities of the African context and experience.
Therefore, a crucial task for African CSOs and partners is to properly problematise IFFs and develop distinctly African policy responses. More on this work can be found on the Stop the Bleeding website and in an eBook we developed with the Mail & Guardian Africa.