Africa’s remarkable growth, driven in large part by a minerals and energy boom, is threatened by illicit capital outflows and widening income gaps, international agency Oxfam has warned ahead of a meeting of top business leaders at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa.
Several African countries are amongst the fastest growing economies in the world , boosted by new discoveries of oil, natural gas, and strategic mineral reserves. But progress is being undermined by income inequalities and massive illicit capital outflows – often in the form of tax evasion and trade mispricing by extractive industries.
Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said: “Africa’s impressive growth needs to reach further. The continent’s resource boom must be harnessed to benefit all its citizens. If illicit capital continues to haemorrhage out of African countries, efforts to reduce poverty and boost economic growth will be undercut. Resource wealth should promote prosperity on the continent, not undermine inclusive economic growth, fuel corruption, or damage the environment.”
In 2010, Africa’s oil, gas and mineral exports amounted to $333 billion in 2010. But illicit financial outflows from Africa are estimated at up to $200 billion annually, dwarfing the development aid it receives.
Byanyima said: “Too often extractive industries in collusion with corrupt government officials cheat Africa of its wealth and potential for social spending. African citizens must get their true share of extractive industry revenues and royalties paid to their governments.”
Despite being on its way to being a pole for global growth, Sub-Saharan Africa is also home to six of the top 10 most unequal countries in terms of economic disparity. Inequality is bad for social stability, and undermines growth itself. Oxfam calculates that in South Africa, more than a million additional people will be pushed into poverty between 2010 and 2020 unless rapidly growing inequality is addressed.
Byanyima said: “Good progress is being made towards bringing down poverty on the continent, but high inequality and corruption are threatening these gains.”
Oxfam has called for multinational enterprises operating in poor countries to conduct business responsibly by informing and consulting local communities affected by oil, gas and mining projects, and giving them the opportunity to approve or reject a project prior to the commencement of operations.
“Africa is taking control of its own destiny, but to meet its real potential our leaders must stand behind those who growth is leaving behind. Proceeds from the continent’s treasures must be channelled to fighting poverty. Aid to Africa should be used to promote good governance, and supporting civil society to keep their leaders accountable. Until all Africans have the food, education and healthcare they need to be productive citizens, social and economic progress on the continent is going to be held back.”
Notes to editors
The European Union last month agreed a deal on a law that will make oil, gas, mining and logging firms companies declare payments to governments, as part of efforts to help fight tax evasion and corruption in resource-rich countries. This comes after legislation passed in the United States under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, requiring oil and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. The US regulation covers about 1,100 public companies engaged in oil, natural gas or mineral extraction. These are important steps in fighting tax evasion and corruption in resource-rich countries.
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