Time to act is now
Africa has been yearning for development for long decades and the desired levels of progress in terms of socio-economic advancement have continued eluding the continent because of a number of factors.
But the key one has been the failure by the continent to fully benefit from the exploitation of its natural resources which include gold, diamonds, platinum, copper and many others such as oil, gas and forests.
To imagine that Africa is estimated to have lost more than US$1,8 trillion to illicit financial flows between 1970 and 2008 alone and continues to lose resources valued at about US$150 billion annually through illicit capital flight is a major worry.
The trillions of dollars are lost mainly through tax evasion, mispricing of goods and services by multi-national companies, according to a study commissioned by the African Union.
Resources meant to oil Africa’s development are being channelled to other continents while Africa remains an inferior partner on the global trade and economic stages because of its lack of financial muscle.
It has been noted that “the amount of illicit financial flows from Africa is greater than the inflow of Overseas Development Assistance,” according to a declaration by the 24th AU Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January. These revelations must push the African continent to act and act now to reverse the current state of affairs before countries on the continent have their resources depleted by the multinationals from the West and other regions of the world.
It is also saddening that most countries on the African continent do not even have databases of the minerals and other natural resources embedded in their territories.
As former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who heads the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows established by African leaders in 2011 to find ways of addressing the problem, says there is need for close co-operation and collaboration among all concerned stakeholders before the rich multinationals or their parent countries leave us with huge craters after digging up all our minerals and other natural resources.
We commend African leaders for taking the initiative to set up a panel to address this anomaly. But as is the norm with many other programmes on the continent precious time is spent strategizing but failing in a big way when it comes to implementation. However, all hope is not lost as a good number of African countries are now more aware than before of the wicked ways of large multi-nationals and their parent countries in unfairly treating Africa when it comes to its natural resources.
For example in Southern Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe just to name a few have begun demanding a fair share of earnings from their natural resources from mining companies operating within their jurisdictions. Zimbabwe has been demanding that platinum miners doing business within its borders must establish a refinery so the platinum and other metals found when mining it are refined in the country so that it derives maximum benefit in terms of revenue from the platinum.
Zambia has become the latest country in the region to be embroiled in disputes over natural resource regulation. Zambia, which is rich in copper, has announced new royalty and tax regulations in a bid to take a greater share in copper mining profits.