Working through collaboration is central to our approaches at TrustAfrica. From our experience, collaboration has meant managing a complex set of relationships with like-minded groups working together to achieve common goals. Oftentimes this has entailed working as part of consortiums, networks, learning groups, communities of practice, strategic alliances, partnerships and coalitions. For us, collaborations have enabled innovation and served as a means to greater collective impact in tackling some of the continent’s most complex development challenges.
One of the most notable demonstrations of collaboration in our approaches has been through our work to curb illicit financial flows from the continent. Instead of going it alone, we led in facilitating collaboration among a set of leading pan African organizations to jointly tackle the challenges of illicit financial flows from Africa. This led to the formation of the Stop the Bleeding Campaign and subsequently the Stop the Bleeding Campaign Consortium as a formal platform for collaborative work among key pan African institutions to work together on other development matters beyond IFFs. Presently the consortium is comprised of TrustAfrica, Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), International Trade Union Council – Africa (ITUC-Africa), FEMNET, African Forum on Debt and Development (AFRODAD) and Tax Justice Network-Africa (TJN-A).
The majority of IFFs originate from tax evasion and tax avoidance practices perpetrated by multi-national corporations (MNCs), particularly those involved in the extractive sector. This “corporate” component of illicit financial flows is estimated to account for as much as 60% – 65% of all IFFs, with illegal activities accounting for 30% and with about 5% coming from corruption. Transfer pricing is the biggest means by which MNCs perpetrate IFFs. Multinationals take advantage of their global structure by engaging in intra-group trade and aggressive tax planning and erode the taxable base in African countries where they actually conduct business and make money and at the same time shift profits to low tax jurisdictions where they can maximize their take. This practice accounts for over 60% of all commercial related illicit financial flows (GFI).
Ultimately, illicit financial flows are one of the biggest obstacles to development progress on the continent. IFFs and tax evasion rob governments of resources that are required for pressing human and economic development needs including health, education, infrastructure as well as productive capital formation on the continent. It’s a scourge that requires adequate policy attention and responses as part of the agenda for inclusive economic and sustainable development on the continent. There was a need to work towards policy shifts and political will, therefore include the African Union in the discussion and agenda. Before the STB campaign, we had identified atomization and isolation of efforts as a significant handicap to efforts to combat IFFs. The main actors working on IFFs needed to join their efforts in re-grouping and developing common agendas and actions.
Our collaboration around the Stop the Bleeding Campaign and the Consortium has been motivated by a desire to share knowledge, resources, share risks and expertise and coordinate efforts in order to generate a stronger collective voice, and ultimately improve our collective impact. In a context where the discourse on IFFs was dominated by global north INGOs that sometimes missed the nuance and context of the African experience of the problem, the stronger collective voice built through our collaboration as pan African institutions enabled us to shift the narrative to reflect the specificities of the African experience and advocate for context relevant solutions. Together with our partners, we were able to raise the profile of IFFs from an obscure subject of discussion amongst policy elites to a popular concern among citizens and diverse communities and build real momentum for policy changes.
Some of the achievements we are most proud of as part of TrustAfrica’s interventions around IFFs have included:
- Knowledge Generation: The development of a free online database collating relevant knowledge products on Illicit Financial Flows Out of Africa (IFFOA)
- Capacity Strengthening: The training of journalists in partnership with Thomson Reuters for accountable reporting on IFFs
- Movement-Building: Mass mobilization of key constituencies and African citizens with thousands of citizens having participated in events organized under the Stop the Bleeding Campaign banner – including marches in cities across the continent.
- Advocacy and Policy: Engaging and participating in key regional economic communities, multilateral agencies and policy platforms, including the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows chaired by former President Thabo Mbeki
- Policy gains through the IFF Consortium, which is led by the High-Level Panel, such as the unanimous decision from AU Heads of State Summit in January 2020 adopting the Common African Position on Asset Recovery (CAPAR) developed under the auspices of the IFF Consortium in which TrustAfrica participates.
From all this experience, we have learnt that at the heart of successful collaborations is trust anchored in genuine relationships that are developed through time, resources and space. And that the collaborative process requires skillful nurturing to identify shared values, build clear and agreed to structures and processes, and shape and reshape outcomes. As we move ahead with implementing our current strategic plan themed “Shaping the Future We Want for Africa”, we are keen to explore collaboration with unusual partners beyond traditional sector boundaries. Notably, the private sector is increasingly tackling social issues, and social entrepreneurs are bringing a different kind of energy and innovation to solving issues. Case in point: we recently partnered with a private company that manufactures medical supplies to deliver thousands of PPEs to health workers on the frontlines of the Covid-19 response in many countries. We are therefore keen to explore more the idea of Multi Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs) that bring together radically diverse partners to negotiate shared goals and outcomes.
Having hosted and convened a wide range of collaborative activities through various networks and coalitions since our inception, we are committed to advancing collaborative practice in all our areas of work. For us collaboration is a critical strategy for achieving our set mission to address some of the continent’s most pressing challenges.
To follow developments of the Stop The Bleeding Campaign go to the website here.