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Capital Flight from Africa: Channels, Actors and Enablers


 On the Trail of Capital Flight from Africa: The Takers and the Enablers

Edited by Léonce Ndikumana and James K. Boyce

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capfltbookOn the Trail of Capital Flight from Africa investigates the dynamics of capital flight from Angola, Côte d'Ivoire, and South Africa, countries that have witnessed large-scale illicit financial outflows in recent decades. Quantitative, qualitative, and institutional analysis for each country is used to examine the modus operandi of capital flight; that is, the 'who', 'how', and 'where' dimensions of the phenomenon. 'Who' refers to major domestic and foreign players; 'how' refers to mechanisms of capital acquisition, transfer, and concealment; and 'where' refers to the destinations of capital flight and the transactions involved. The evidence reveals a complex network of actors and enablers involved in orchestrating and facilitating capital flight and the accumulation of private wealth in offshore secrecy jurisdictions. This underscores the reality that capital flight is a global phenomenon, and that measures to curtail it are a shared responsibility for Africa and the global community. Addressing the problem of capital flight and related issues such as trade misinvoicing, money laundering, tax evasion, and theft of public assets by political and economic elites will require national and global efforts with a high level of coordination.

 Working Paper Series

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Read: International Trade and Capital Flight from Africa: Challenges for Governance

Read: Magnitudes and Mechanisms of Capital Flight from Angola, Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa

Read: Oil and Capital Flight: The Case of Angola

Read: Capital Flight from South Africa: A Case Study

Read: Bitter Chocolate: Wealth Extraction from Côte d'Ivoire

Read French version of Bitter Chocolate

Press and Study Impact

South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) Calls on Treasury and the Reserve Bank to Stop Coddling Economic Criminals

Global Development Policy Center Webinar Summary: On the Trail of Capital Flight


Preface to the Working Paper Series on Capital Flight from Africa

Capital flight constitutes a major constraint to Africa’s efforts to fill the large and growing financing gaps that hold back its progress towards achieving sustainable development goals. The mounting evidence on the unrecorded outflows of capital from Africa has spurred calls for strategies to curb the financial hemorrhage that is afflicting the continent.

The existing evidence is still inadequate, however, on four fronts. First, the quantitative evidence is predominantly aggregate and does not furnish adequate country-specific information on the mechanisms of capital flight, its institutional contexts, and the role of domestic and foreign players in facilitating it. Second, the literature has not paid adequate attention to the destinations of wealth accumulated through capital flight and the roles of the banking sector and public institutions in destination jurisdictions. Third, much of the literature conflates the capital flight with the broader concept of illicit financial flows. While all capital flight is illicit owing to its unrecorded transfer – and often, as well, by virtue of the illegal origins of the wealth, and the failure to declare the assets and pay tax on the associated income – not all illicit financial flows are capital flight; for example, payments for smuggled imports are an illicit flow but distinct from capital flight. Fourth, the existing literature has not sufficiently explored the two-way relationship between capital flight and governance in national and international institutions.

To help fill these gaps in the literature, the African Development Policy Program at the Political Economy Research Institute has initiated detailed analyses in a project generously supported by the Open Society Foundations and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. This Working Paper series presents the project’s outputs. Our goal in issuing these reports is to engender informed public participation in decision making on financial regulation. Key findings will be distilled and published in the coming year in an edited volume that is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Léonce Ndikumana
Director, African Development Policy Program
University of Massachusetts Amherst


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