It’s time to stop the bleed­ing in Africa

Nachi­lala Nkombo

CityPress - - Voices - Voices@ city­press. co. za Nkombo is deputy di­rec­tor of ONE Africa

Per­haps the great­est in­jus­tice of our lives is that we have some of the world’s poor­est peo­ple liv­ing on top of some of the world’s rich­est de­posits of nat­u­ral re­sources. His­tor­i­cally, this was the norm as slav­ery, colo­nial­ism, neo­colo­nial­ism and other “isms” were aimed at rob­bing and im­pov­er­ish­ing the world’s poor­est coun­tries.

To­day, the con­tin­ued ex­is­tence of poverty in the midst of plenty in th­ese re­source-rich coun­tries is ex­plained by a scan­dal quan­ti­fied by new re­search from the ONE Cam­paign.

Our re­port re­veals that at least a tril­lion dol­lars is taken out of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries each year through cor­rup­tion, il­le­gal tax eva­sion, the use of shell com­pa­nies and shady deals to the detri­ment of de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes. This is a scan­dal of im­mense pro­por­tion.

Th­ese num­bers should make African gov­ern­ments sit up. It is no won­der that since the Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals were adopted in 2000, their at­tain­ment in Africa has been elu­sive. Africa is the only con­ti­nent where poverty is in­creas­ing in some parts.

When gov­ern­ments are robbed of their own re­sources to invest in health­care or food se­cu­rity, it costs lives.

This makes cor­rup­tion a deadly killer that must be ur­gently stopped.

With the scan­dal out, now is the time to cre­ate trans­par­ent gov­er­nance struc­tures to com­bat the root cause of this prob­lem. This will en­sure that Africa’s vast nat­u­ral re­sources be­gin to trans­form and ben­e­fit the con­ti­nent.

The si­phon­ing of the tril­lion dol­lars from poor na­tions not only ex­poses a ma­jor weak­ness in the na­tional gov­er­nance of nat­u­ral re­sources. It is fu­elled by loop­holes in the global fi­nan­cial sys­tems that en­able op­er­a­tions of multi­na­tional com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in poor coun­tries to hide money abroad.

It’s a global prob­lem that calls for global so­lu­tions.

Stop­ping this theft re­quires com­mit­ment and ac­tion from world lead­ers to re­move the en­abling con­di­tions in their coun­tries that make this costly cor­rup­tion con­tinue and thrive.

As the G20 meet in Novem­ber in Bris­bane, Aus­tralia, to dis­cuss boost­ing eco­nomic growth and in­ter­na­tional tax, ONE is call­ing for ac­tion in four ar­eas:

En­sur­ing full and manda­tory pub­lic dis­clo­sure in the oil and gas min­er­als ex­trac­tives sec­tor, with coun­try-by-coun­try and project-by-project pay­ments re­vealed to cit­i­zens.

Mak­ing fully pub­lic the own­er­ship of com­pa­nies. Cur­rently, anony­mous com­pa­nies aid and abet money laun­der­ing for or­gan­ised crime, hu­man traf­fick­ers, drug and gun smug­glers, and cor­rupt of­fi­cials.

Fa­cil­i­tat­ing the au­to­matic ex­change of tax in­for­ma­tion be­tween de­vel­oped and de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Mak­ing gov­ern­ment bud­gets trans­par­ent and open to the pub­lic.

Ac­cord­ing to the Open Bud­get In­dex, only 3% of African cit­i­zens live in coun­tries with suf­fi­ciently pub­lic in­for­ma­tion on na­tional bud­gets.

In par­tic­u­lar, cit­i­zens at the lo­cal gov­ern­ment level must be able to walk into lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­ity of­fices and ask of­fi­cials spe­cific ques­tions on how lo­cal gov­ern­ment bud­gets are be­ing spent.

This is sadly too rare, and means cit­i­zens and the lo­cal me­dia can­not follow the money and mon­i­tor what should be go­ing into de­liv­er­ing ba­sic life­sav­ing ser­vices.

In our nat­u­ral re­sources and in our peo­ple, we have the wealth and power to not just end ex­treme poverty, and pre­ventable child and ma­ter­nal deaths, but to en­sure that ev­ery African – in­deed, ev­ery cit­i­zen in ev­ery na­tion glob­ally – has ac­cess to de­cent ba­sic ser­vices and a chance at a good life led with dig­nity.

But per­ver­sion in our po­lit­i­cal and com­mer­cial sys­tems eats away many dreams of this kind of life.

That task starts not just with our lead­ers, but with each one of us.

Our re­port re­veals that at least a tril­lion dol­lars is taken out of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries each year through cor­rup­tion, il­le­gal tax eva­sion, the use of shell com­pa­nies and shady deals to the detri­ment of de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes

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