Where have you had your greatest achievement or encouragement in your crusade against IFFs thus far?
TB: I think the first and major achievement is that now, for the first time, we have a program to deal with illicit financial outflows that emanate from the continent and that is approved across Africa.
When the summit meeting of the African Union looked at the report and agreed it, the AU then passed its own declaration of what was to be done. Now they know what to do, the report is there, and the whole continent has reached major consensus. I think that’s a major achievement.
The second achievement is that the matter of the illicit financial outflows serves as one of the principal items on the agenda of this international conference ‘Financing for Development’. In the end, we might be the originating countries in terms of outflows, but there are destination countries, and we need to act together with them.
So they are here as part of the Financing for Development conference and the draft documents that are with them include illicit financial outflows as a major topic.
I think those are two achievements. I am sure the conference will adopt a document which reflects and takes into account the illicit financial outflows issue.
It’s the first time for Africa to construct a program which is continent-wide – and also it will be the first time that it will be possible to construct a program on the illicit outflows which can also be global. This is a major basis on which to move forward, and I think the really big challenge will be for us to say ‘We have gone so far, let’s get the results’.
Clearly, the issue has now been analyzed properly; it’s been discussed in detail. The forms that it takes, and the ways and means in which the outflows take place, have been identified. You actually do have examples around the world of responses that have been made already. So in some of the instances, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, you have got to say ‘Look, here is something that has been done, implemented and worked effectively. Why don’t we globalize it?’
At the Financing for Development conference and beyond, what we have to focus on is implementation of these measures, so that we actually get real results, in terms of stopping the outflows and – more importantly – returning what has already left.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki is chairman of the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, created by UNECA and the AU. During the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Thabo Mbeki spoke to African Business.