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Where is Africa's voice?

By Dereje Alemayehu | 9 February 2011

So far, 2011 has not been a comfortable year for the tax dodger. One month in and Wikileaks are preparing to publish the names of thousands of offshore account holders in Switzerland; UK-based companies like Vodafone have been criticised for alleged aggressive tax avoidance; and  following a high profile corruption scandal, India's media is hungry to expose the horrors of a system that allows billions of dollars to flow out of the country every year.

Best estimates suggest that Africa has lost US$854 billion to illicit outflows of capital in the past three decades - aided and abetted by the financial secrecy of tax havens.

Tax Justice Network's own Nick Shaxson has highlighted how endemic this offshore system is - allowing corrupt dictators to stash their loot, corporations to minimise their tax bill, and allowing New York billionaire Leona Helmsley's outrageous statement that "only little people pay taxes" to remain a truism.

So where is Africa's voice?  Where is our sense of outrage? A quick search for statements from Africa's leaders show that there is little interest in the issue (bar perhaps South Africa's former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel).

Why is this? Don't we care that Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world? Perhaps it is the vested interests of the political classes. Or perhaps, those leaders simply aren't feeling any pressure from their citizens to do anything about this.

Against the backdrop of dramatic change in the Middle East, here in Dakar at the World Social Forum, thousands of people from across the world are calling for a better way. For markets to serve people, rather than people serving the market.

Read more from Dereje and the World Social Forum on the Guardian 


Take action!

Act now! Call on David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Nicolas Sarkozy to end tax haven secrecy at this year’s G20.


 About the author

Dereje Alemayehu

Dereje Alemayehu is our Country Manager for East Africa.

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