Category Archives: North Africa

Tax evasion and dirty money harming African economies

Mail and Guardian

Tax evasion and dirty money are draining Africa

Africa loses far more than it receives in aid and foreign direct investment.
Africa loses far more than it receives in aid and foreign direct investment.

Tax evasion benefits individuals to the detriment of society, wiping out state services. It also hampers the achievement of the eight United Nations millennium development goals (MDGs), which were designed to meet the needs of the world’s poorest people.

If tax evasion takes place in the grey area between legality and illegality – such as when companies shift their headquarters to tax havens – tax fraud involves the overt breaking of laws. It is often combined with dirty money from illegal activities (trafficking, terrorism, etc.) and thus weakens the gross domestic product (GDP) of African states. The organisation Global Financial Integrity estimates that Mauritania loses 12% of its GDP to such activity, Chad 20%, and the Republic of Congo 25%. As a result, illicit financial flows both damage African states and hold back their industrialisation and development.

Tax evasion, a major obstacle to the development of Africa

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/UoKMN/1/The chart shows that fraud and tax evasion weigh heavily on the timing of countries that want to achieve their millennium development goals. Source: Global Financial Integrity.

Illegal financial flows bleed Africa dry

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/s75cm/1/“PIB” stands for gross domestic product (GDP). The chart shows illicit financial flows as percentage of GDP. Africa loses far more than it receives in aid and foreign direct investment.

Adam Abdou Hassan, Enseignant chercheur, Université de Rouen Normandie

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Adam Abdou Hassan

Mali – three UN peacekeepers killed in attack near Kidal

Reuters

Three U.N. peacekeepers killed in northern Mali attack

DAKAR Militants on Thursday killed three United Nations peacekeepers in a attack outside their base in Kidal in northern Mali, the U.N. said in a statement on Friday.

U.N. soldiers face frequent attacks from desert fighters who have regrouped since a French-led military operation in 2013 to drive them out of Mali’s northern towns.

More than 100 peacekeepers have died in recent months, making it the most deadly U.N. mission to date.

The soldiers were from Guinea, the Guinean government said in a statement. The identity of the attackers was not yet known.

The U.N. camp came under heavy mortar fire on Thursday, injuring five. Shortly afterwards, three U.N. soldiers were killed in an attack just outside the camp, the U.N. said, giving no further details.

Despite ongoing French strikes on their hideouts, fighters, including local al Qaeda affiliates, have staged a series of attacks this year, including a suicide bombing at an army base in January which killed at least 77 people.

Several French soldiers were wounded last week in an al Qaeda mortar attack in Timbuktu.

(Reporting By Edward McAllister; Additional reporting by Saliou Samb in Conakry; Editing by Tim Cocks)

 

Niger president tells G-7 to put out Libyan cauldron and give more aid

Reuters

By John Irish | TAORMINA, Italy

TAORMINA, Italy Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou called on the leaders of the Group of Seven nations to take urgent measures to end the Libyan crisis and derided them for not keeping to aid promises to fight poverty in West Africa’s poorest regions.

Niger, which adjoins Libya to the south and has fought Islamists at home, is increasingly concerned about the situation in the North Africa country where rival governments oppose each other leaving a power vacuum that has enabled Islamist groups to establish a foothold in the country.

“The fight against terrorism in the Sahel countries and the Lake Chad demands that urgent measures be taken to put out the Libyan cauldron,” Issoufou, one of several Africa leaders attending a G7 summit in Sicily, said in a speech

The former French colony remains one of the poorest countries on earth. More than 60 percent of its 17 million people survive on less than $1 a day and as a result it is also one of the main transit points for African migrants seeking to reach Europe through Libya.

“Be it Niger, a transit nation, or the countries of origin, it is only through development that we will prevent illegal migration,” Issoufou said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has more than 4,000 troops spanning across West Africa as part of a counter-terrorism operation, said on Friday that more needed to be done to support the development of countries like Niger as well as providing military assistance.

Issoufou on Saturday also took a swipe at the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, Britain and the United States, saying they had simply not lived up to their promises.

“In terms of development aid, rare are the donor countries that meet the level of 0.7 percent of GDP promised 50 years ago and the G8 promised in 2005 25 billion euros in extra development. That target promise was never met,” Issoufou said.

Italy had hoped to make Africa the major focus of the annual G7 gathering, holding the discussions on the island of Sicily that has taken in hundreds of thousands of migrants over the past four years as they flee war and poverty back home.

However, the two-day meeting got overshadowed by a suicide bombing in northern England on Monday that killed 22 people, and also got bogged down by lengthy discussions on the merit of free trade and the 2015 Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Toby

Africa is not poor, we are stealing its wealth

Al Jazeera

 Our climate crisis was not caused by Africa, but Africans will feel the effect more than most others, writes Dearden [Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]
Our climate crisis was not caused by Africa, but Africans will feel the effect more than most others, writes Dearden [Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]

By

Nick Dearden is the director of UK campaigning organisation Global Justice Now.

Africa is poor, but we can try to help its people.

It’s a simple statement, repeated through a thousand images, newspaper stories and charity appeals each year, so that it takes on the weight of truth. When we read it, we reinforce assumptions and stories about Africa that we’ve heard throughout our lives. We reconfirm our image of Africa.

Try something different. Africa is rich, but we steal its wealth.

That’s the essence of a report (pdf) from several campaign groups released today. Based on a set of new figures, it finds that sub-Saharan Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world to the tune of more than $41bn. Sure, there’s money going in: around $161bn a year in the form of loans, remittances (those working outside Africa and sending money back home), and aid.

But there’s also $203bn leaving the continent. Some of this is direct, such as $68bn in mainly dodged taxes. Essentially multinational corporations “steal” much of this – legally – by pretending they are really generating their wealth in tax havens. These so-called “illicit financial flows” amount to around 6.1 per cent of the continent’s entire gross domestic product (GDP) – or three times what Africa receives in aid.

Then there’s the $30bn that these corporations “repatriate” – profits they make in Africa but send back to their home country, or elsewhere, to enjoy their wealth. The City of London is awash with profits extracted from the land and labour of Africa.

There are also more indirect means by which we pull wealth out of Africa. Today’s report estimates that $29bn a year is being stolen from Africa in illegal logging, fishing and trade in wildlife. $36bn is owed to Africa as a result of the damage that climate change will cause to their societies and economies as they are unable to use fossil fuels to develop in the way that Europe did. Our climate crisis was not caused by Africa, but Africans will feel the effect more than most others. Needless to say, the funds are not currently forthcoming.

If African countries are to benefit from foreign investment, they must be allowed to – even helped to – legally regulate that investment and the corporations that often bring it.

In fact, even this assessment is enormously generous, because it assumes that all of the wealth flowing into Africa is benefitting the people of that continent. But loans to governments and the private sector (at more than $50bn) can turn into unpayable and odious debt.

Ghana is losing 30 per cent of its government revenue to debt repayments, paying loans which were often made speculatively, based on high commodity prices, and carrying whopping rates of interest. One particularly odious aluminium smelter in Mozambique, built with loans and aid money, is currently costing the country £21 for every £1 that the Mozambique government received. British aid, which is used to set up private schools and health centres, can undermine the creation of decent public services, which is why such private schools are being closed down in Uganda and Kenya. Of course, some Africans have benefitted from this economy. There are now around 165,000 very rich Africans, with combined holdings of $860bn. But, given the way the economy works, where do these people mainly keep their wealth? In tax havens. A 2014 estimate suggests that rich Africans were holding a massive $500bn in tax havens. Africa’s people are effectively robbed of wealth by an economy that enables a tiny minority of Africans to get rich by allowing wealth to flow out of Africa.

So what is the answer? Western governments would like to be seen as generous beneficiaries, doing what they can to “help those unable to help themselves”. But the first task is to stop perpetuating the harm they are doing. Governments need to stop forcing African governments to open up their economy to privatisation, and their markets to unfair competition.

OPINION: Investment in Africa – There’s room for everyone

If African countries are to benefit from foreign investment, they must be allowed to – even helped to – legally regulate that investment and the corporations that often bring it. And they might want to think about not putting their faith in the extractives sector. With few exceptions, countries with abundant mineral wealth experience poorer democracy, weaker economic growth, and worse development. To prevent tax dodging, governments must stop prevaricating on action to address tax havens. No country should tolerate companies with subsidiaries based in tax havens operating in their country.

Aid is tiny, and the very least it can do, if spent well, is to return some of Africa’s looted wealth. We should see it both as a form of reparations and redistribution, just as the tax system allows us to redistribute wealth from the richest to the poorest within individual societies. The same should be expected from the global “society”.

To even begin to embark on such an ambitious programme, we must change the way we talk and think about Africa. It’s not about making people feel guilty, but correctly diagnosing a problem in order to provide a solution. We are not, currently, “helping” Africa. Africa is rich. Let’s stop making it poorer.

Nick Dearden is the director of UK campaigning organisation Global Justice Now. He was previously the director of Jubilee Debt Campaign.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy. 

Africa and Europe – wall against migrants almost complete

The Conversation

May 3, 2017 11.00am SAST

Migrants abandoned on the Sudan-Libya border by smugglers in 2014. STR/EPA

A deal signed in Italy with tribes operating in southern Libya may be the last element of the barrier the EU has been constructing to exclude Africans from Europe. “To seal the southern Libyan border means to seal the southern border of Europe,” declared Italian foreign minister, Marco Minniti, following the signing ceremony in early April.

The deal, negotiated in secret with leaders of the Toubou and Awlad Sulaiman ethnic groups, holds real benefits for European politicians under pressure to halt the arrival of more African migrants and refugees. Minniti explained to the Italian newspaper La Stampa that:

The Libyan border guard service will be active all along the 5,000km [3,106 mile] long south Libyan border. And in the north, migrant sea traffickers will be dealt with by the Libyan coast guard which was trained by Italian experts, and which will be equipped with 10 motor boats from April 30.

The Libyan deal is the latest part of a barrier constructed to protect Europe’s soft southern underbelly – the Mediterranean. It may not be a physical barrier comparable to Donald Trump’s wall along the US-Mexican border, but it is nearly in place.

Avenues closing

The routes that Africans have used in the past to reach Europe are fast being sealed. There is currently next to no transit by sea from West Africa through the Canary Islands. Just 144 people made it to Spain by this route between July and September 2016 according to the most recent statistics from the EU’s border force, Frontex. More crossed from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on Morocco’s northern coast, but they numbered just under 3,000.

The route through the Sinai and Israel also has been closed. The brutal treatment of Eritreans and Sudanese in the Sinai by mafia-style Bedouin groups, who extracted ransoms with torture and rape, was certainly a deterrent in the past. But this route was fully sealed in December 2013 when the Israeli authorities built an almost impregnable fence, blocking entry via the Sinai.

Libya and Egypt have remained possibilities for migrants, but both are now becoming increasingly difficult to cross. The latest African Intelligence report from Frontex makes this clear.

Egypt became more attractive following the brutal killing and enslavement of Africans attempting to use the Libyan route. Many are Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians, who are subjected to the most appalling abuse by members of so-called Islamic State (IS).

But even Egypt has its drawbacks. As Frontex makes clear, many refugees dodge the authorities to avoid being forcibly repatriated to their countries of origin. This has left Libya – dangerous as it is – as one of the few viable routes into Europe. Blocking this has been critical to the success of the EU’s strategy, as a recent official assessment by the European Commission made clear:

Libya is of pivotal importance as the primary point of departure for the Central Mediterranean route.

This is why the deal signed in Italy is so important. As Frontex has explained, having the co-operation of the tribes in the area is vital if the route through the southern Libyan border is to be sealed:

The Tuareg and Toubou groups dominate the local human smuggling business thanks to the fact that their clansmen are spread on both sides of the border.

Questionable co-operation

The Italian proposals are very much in line with agreements the EU reached with African leaders during a summit held in Malta, in late 2015.

Libyan prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Italy for diplomatic talks in late March 2017. Angelo Carconi/EPA

The two sides signed a deal to halt the flight of refugees and migrants. Europe offered training to “law enforcement and judicial authorities” in new methods of investigation and “assisting in setting up specialised anti-trafficking and smuggling police units”. The European police forces of Europol and Frontex will assist African security police in countering the “production of forged and fraudulent documents”.

This meant co-operating with dictatorial regimes, like Sudan, that’s ruler, Omar al-Bashir, is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. But al-Bashir is now seen as a friend to the West, despite his notorious record. One of Barack Obama’s last acts as president of the US was to lift sanctions against Sudan.

It is clear that Europe is determined to do all it can to reduce, and finally halt, the African exodus. But one point needs to be emphasised: the EU’s “wall” is by no means the only barrier Africans have to confront.

As Frontex makes clear, several African states have their own system of fences, or are planning to build them. These include the Moroccan wall (or “berm”) to halt the Sahrawis crossing from Algeria, as well as fences along the borders between Niger and Nigeria, Tunisia and Libya and a planned fence between Kenya and Somalia.

The obstacles confronting African migrants and refugees en route to Europe are becoming ever more severe.

Less armed conflict but more political violence in Africa

Institute for Security Studies

Conflict data sources show fewer armed conflicts, but are we getting the full picture?

Political violence in Africa is rising and it is more complex than before. But it is significantly less deadly than in previous decades, according to a number of conflict data sources.

Open-source conflict data is increasingly used to supplement reporting and analysis of trends in instability in Africa. A number of recent global reports, including the OECD States of Fragility 2016: Understanding Violence, use conflict data to show changes in conflict type, actors, tactics and intensity across and within countries over time.

While Africa accounted for only 16% of the global population in 2016, more than a third of global conflict took place here last year. Leading conflict data projects such as the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) show that conflict incidents in Africa rose significantly between 2010 and 2014, but have been declining since 2015.

Levels of high-intensity conflicts and wars (where over 500 people are killed) in Africa, as measured by the Center for Systemic Peace and the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK), are lower than during the 1990s.

Current armed conflicts in Africa are clustered in four regions: North Africa and the Sahel, West Africa, the Horn, and the Great Lakes region. ACLED reports that between 2010 and 2016, the highest number of politically violent events occurred in Somalia, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Across both UCDP and ACLED, in 2015 conflict killed the most people in Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya and the DRC.

Despite ongoing brutal conflicts since the early 2000s, violence in Africa has been moving away from armed conflicts to higher levels of riots, protests and social violence, such as homicide and violence associated with organised crime. The evidence base for social violence is however weaker – typically drawn from nationally reported homicide statistics. These sources provide little information about for example actor types, tactics and association with criminal gangs, limiting our ability to understand the relationship between political and social violence.

The three-fold increase in ACLED-reported incidents since 2010 is largely explained by the steady rise of protests and riots, spread across the continent as seen in Figure 1 below. South Africa had the highest number of protest events in 2016, followed by Tunisia, Ethiopia and Egypt.
Figure 1: Map of event types, 2010-2016

https://issafrica.org/frame/58c7dda254f9f

Source: ACLED, Version 7.0, January 2017.
Remote violence refers to incidents where the tool used doesn’t require physical human presence, for example, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and mortar and missile attacks. Most battle events were fought in Somalia, Libya and Nigeria.

While these arcs of conflict (North Africa/Sahel, West Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes) seem to hold over time, dynamics within conflicts tend to change, as seen in the rise of remote violence. ACLED reports that Somalia saw the highest number of remote violence incidents in Africa in 2016. IEDs have become ‘the weapon of choice’ for al-Shabaab. Remote violence typically targets civilians, while battle actors target each other.

Civilian targeting is on the rise. According to ACLED, the deadliest incidents of civilian targeting in 2016 occurred in Nigeria and Ethiopia and were carried out by militias and state forces. In many settings, there is also a greater number of conflict agents than before. ACLED reports that there were 66 distinct actors in Libya in 2016, for example – almost twice as many as in 2013.

The types of actors and groups involved in conflicts are also changing. Historically, rebel groups and state forces are the most common actors across Africa, but increasingly, political and communal militias and unidentified armed groups dominate. This shift is indicative of changing motivations. Political militias differ from rebel groups in that they don’t seek to directly overthrow the governing regime.

The HIIK Conflict Barometer 2016 finds that most high- and low-intensity wars are shifting away from coup attempts and power grabs compared to previous years, and the continent is witnessing more ‘violent crises’, which are associated with fewer deaths, refugees and internally displaced persons.

But politically motivated violence is only part of the story. In 2013, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Global Study on Homicide estimated that 31% of global homicides occurred in Africa. So to get the full picture, data is needed on both political/conflict-related violence and criminal violence – a point made by the OECD report and a new report by Rachel Kleinfeld of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

For starters, governments need the capacity to better collect data and regularly release crime statistics. These should be disaggregated by gender and include important information, such as links with organised crime. Different data sources also need to be standardised and made compatible with each other so that they can be compared.

This is necessary, as Kleinfeld points out, if African countries want to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal to ‘significantly reduce all forms of violence and related deaths everywhere’.

Ciara Aucoin, Researcher, African Futures and Innovation, ISS Pretoria

In South Africa, Daily Maverick has exclusive rights to re-publish ISS Today articles. For media based outside South Africa and queries about our re-publishing policy, email us.

African migrants sold in Libyan “slave markets”

BBC

Gambian migrants who returned voluntarily from Libya stand in line with plastic bag from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as they wait for registration at the airport in Banjul, Gambia April 4, 2017Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Reports of African migrants being bought and sold mark a new low in the crisis

Africans trying to reach Europe are being sold by their captors in “slave markets” in Libya, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.

Victims told IOM that after being detained by people smugglers or militia groups, they were taken to town squares or car parks to be sold.

Migrants with skills like painting or tiling would fetch higher prices, the head of the IOM in Libya told the BBC.

Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 Nato-backed ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.

Hundreds of young sub-Saharan African men have been caught up in the so-called slave markets, according to the IOM report.

A Senegalese migrant, who was not named to protect his identity, said that he had been sold at one such market in the southern Libyan city of Sabha, before being taken to a makeshift prison where more than 100 migrants were being held hostage.

Women, too, were bought by private Libyan clients and brought to homes where they were forced to be sex slaves, the witness said.

Map showing Central Mediterranean migrant routes

The IOM’s chief of mission for Libya, Othman Belbeisi, told the BBC that those sold into slavery found themselves priced according to their abilities.

“Apparently they don’t have money and their families cannot pay the ransom, so they are being sold to get at least a minimum benefit from that,” he said.

“The price is definitely different depending on your qualifications, for example if you can do painting or tiles or some specialised work then the price gets higher.”

A migrant hangs from a boat as they wait to be rescued as they drift in the Mediterranean Sea, some 12 nautical miles north of Libya, on October 4, 2016.Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many thousands of migrants each year try to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean

An IOM staff member in Niger said they confirmed the reports of auctions in Libya with several other migrants who had escaped:

“They all confirmed the risks of been sold as slaves in squares or garages in Sabha, either by their drivers or by locals who recruit the migrants for daily jobs in town, often in construction.

“Later, instead of paying them, [they] sell their victims to new buyers.”

Some migrants, mainly Nigerians, Ghanaians and Gambians are forced to work “as guards in the ransom houses or in the ‘market’ itself”, the IOM employee added.

The organisation has called the emergence of these markets “a disturbing new trend in the already dire situation for migrants in Libya”.