The executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe, has declared that combatting bribery, money laundering and tax evasion should be a priority if Africa is to finance its transition to middle income status and increase prosperity.

Songwe was speaking at the African Leadership Forum 2018 in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, earlier this month.

Aggressive investigation

Governments should act on several fronts said Songwe, who insists that demonstrative leadership is needed and that governments should aggressively investigate and prosecute money launderers and companies that evade taxes.

She called for more integrity and transparency among leaders and officials at both public and private institutions, all of which she said should transparently declare their assets.

Information exchange

Songwe urged African countries to sign up to international tax information treaties that facilitate the exchange of information.

“Countries should also build human and technological capacities of agencies tasked with tackling illicit financial flows, and institute information sharing and collaboration between relevant government agencies and ministries,” she added.

High-level support

The forum was hosted by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and convened by former president of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa.

Several former African heads of states attended the forum, including former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, and former Tunisian president Mohamed Moncef.

Continental losses

The ECA reckons that in the three decades to 2009, Africa lost an estimated US$1.4 trillion through trade-based financial crime.

In addition, the commission reckons that losses through non-trade channels averaged an estimated US$27 billion annually between 2005 and 2014.