It’s time to stop the bleeding in Africa

2014-10-05 15:00

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 life-saving 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.

Nkombo is deputy director of ONE Africa

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