Uhuru to UNGA: Africa is a net exporter of capital to the world through illicit outflows


President Uhuru Kenyatta last week addressed the United Nations General Assembly, where he decried the increasing evidence that Africa is a net exporter of much needed capital to the world through illicit outflows.

Addressing the 73rd Session of the #UNGA in New York, president Kenyatta noted that as people observed the impunity of the corrupt, they increasingly felt that the economic systems were rigged against their hopes.

President Kenyatta said the extraction of mineral and other resources continued to be subject to corrupt dealings that not only denied communities and countries any benefit but that almost routinely led to violence and instability.

He said such dealings had over several decades been clothed with the garments of legality, institutionalising the exploitation by cartels and oligopolies that were pillaging Africa and other underdeveloped regions of all their natural wealth.

“Conservative estimates indicate that between 1980 and 2009, illicit money outflows from Africa ranged between US$1.2 to 1.4 trillion, roughly equal to Africa’s current GDP and surpassing by far the money it received from outside over the same period,” President Kenyatta said.

“Every illicit dollar that leaves Africa goes somewhere. Most often to where the rest of the money from tax evaders and criminals is hidden. Africans suffer as a result, but the irony is that what is done to Africa, eventually is done to the rest of the world. The present system of transferring and laundering illicit capital is enabling corrupt networks all over the world to illegally acquire in one country, while being welcomed with open arms as investors in another country. The same system is used by drug cartels and even terrorist organisations.”

He said collectively, drug addiction, violent extremism, international crime, and terrorist actions resulted in misery and hurt millions of people all over the world.

President Kenyatta said the most dramatic manifestation of the destructive impact of such crimes was the loss of trust in governing institutions at the national, regional, and global levels.

“The trust deficit grows,” he said. “Oftentimes, institutions of government have become vehicles to capture for ethnic or racial interests articulated by populists and extremists who thrive in chronic instability and drive it forward with their incitement. When networks and cartels in government capture the state for their own selfish gain, and represent themselves as champions of an ethnic or religious group, the result is all too often civil strife and civil war. In such an atmosphere, the result of a political competition can begin to seem like an existential threat to groups and their members.”

President Kenyatta demanded fighting impunity and corruption seriously and without fear or favour.

He said Kenya was undertaking an aggressive campaign against fraud and abuse of public trust.

“We have reached out to our partners in Switzerland and the United Kingdom to take action against transfers of illegal proceeds of corruption to their banking and financial systems. We will pursue more such bilateral agreements,” President Kenyatta said.

“They must be accompanied by determined reforms, that are subject to clear timelines and standards, in the multilateral system that combat systemic corruption, money laundering and the offshoring of illicit outflows. The single overarching aim must be to make it exceedingly difficult to transfer and launder illegally acquired wealth in any part of the world.”

President Kenyatta said all UN bodies should be tasked with detecting corruption in their different focus areas and promoting the skills and systems to combat it. “In the understanding that honest, transparent and responsive government is fundamental to the achievement of their aims,” President Kenyatta said.

He stressed that there was growing demand by the citizenry for accountability, occasioned by an attendant awareness of the gap between available resources and the provision of services to the populations.

President Kenyatta said those demands were also fuelled by a growing awareness of the scourge of corruption and wastage of public resources, and their negative effects on the lives and hopes of people.

“Never before in human history, due to the benefits of accessible information, have so many people known how public trust is undermined by the acts of commission or omission by a few individuals and networks, both in the private and public sector,” said President Kenyatta. “Weak systems of governance are manipulated and exploited for the gain of predatory interests at the expense of the common man. The free press and social media are rife with news of outright fraud, cynical conflicts of interest, and financial arrangements that privatize gains during prosperous times then socialize losses during economic catastrophe.”