Journalists urged to help stop illicit financial flows from Africa


ECA Press Release 172/2012

Addis Ababa, 21 October (ECA) -  About 80 journalists from across Africa and Europe were today called upon to assist in halting the illicit financial flows (IFF) from Africa at a media workshop ahead of the Eight African Development Forum (ADF VIII) which opens tomorrow in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Forum is jointly organized by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union and the African Development Bank.

Senior officials of the ECA and the AUC engaged the journalists in discussions and debate on the Forum’s main theme "Governing and Harnessing Natural Resources for Africa's Development", urging them to play a stronger watchdog role in stopping IFF from Africa.

Speaking to the journalists, Mr. Yinka Adeyemi, Head of the Information and Communications Services of the ECA, said it was their sacred duty to be the voice of the voiceless, adding that, by some estimates, over  $50 billion leaves Africa yearly through illicit financial flows. He said this was why the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, chaired by former President Thabo Mbeki,  is holding subregional consultations with the aim of recommending appropriate policies to counter the phenomenon and seek repatriation of the stolen moneys back to the continent.

Adeyemi said ECA had developed an advocacy strategy to track the illicit flows, Stop the flow and get back the money.  He urged journalists to help “Track it. Stop it. Get it”, the tagline adopted by the High Level Panel.

He encouraged the journalists to assist African governments in exposing the sources of illicit flows with credible writing and investigative reports with will, in turn, arm citizens with the knowledge to hold their governments accountable.

Mr. Antonio Pedro, Director of the Economic Commission Sub Regional Office for Eastern Africa based in Rwanda, told journalists that the extractive industries in Africa have little linkages to other sectors of the economy, indicating that even though there is a high foreign direct investment in the sector, "there is no reflection on development outcomes."

He said even though the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has been adopted by most African countries, it needed to be domesticated by these countries. According to him, it is important for African countries to invest in other sectors of the economy apart from mining as natural resources are non-renewable.

He said countries must address the enclave nature of mining by using mining rents to develop other  sectors of the economy. He argued that conversations on mining shouldn't be between only governments and the companies, but should involve other stakeholders like the media. "An informed and responsible media should help shape government decisions," he said.

In her remarks, Mrs. Wynne Musabayana, Deputy Head of Department of Information and  Communication of the African Union Commission,  said because citizens have the right to know, the media serves as the interlink between institutions and the people. Mrs. Musabayana said the process of Africa's development must be participatory and driven by citizens.

She therefore called on the media to insist that African leaders implement decisions they take at AU and other meetings in their countries.

Also speaking to journalists on the occasion, the Director of Economic Development and NEPAD Division of the Economic Commission for Africa, said the improved political and economic situation in the north of Africa had bright prospects for the sub-region and the continent.

He argued that in the light of the global economic crisis, Africa was not affected because “African governments are managing the economy better,” noting however that while Africa is growing, development is not happening as it should, because “growth is not benefiting the people”.

Prof. Nnadozie said it is crucial to look at how to harness the continent’s natural resources to reduce poverty. “Exporting raw materials is equal to exporting your jobs,” he said, because “processing those raw materials on the continent would offer jobs to citizens and add value to exports”.

He said it is important to get Africans into the global value chain through natural resource governance, knowledge and human resource development and growth that is strong and broad-based.

He was of the view that African countries must add value to their raw material and diversify their products. He concluded by urging journalists to raise awareness and cultivate deeper understanding of the role of Africa's natural resources governance in the continent's economic transformation.

The three-day conference to be held from October 23-25 2012 under the theme: "Governing and Harnessing Natural Resources for Africa's Development" is jointly organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union  and the African Development Bank.

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© 2012 Economic Commission for Africa