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We investigate the determinants of capital flight from 30 sub-Saharan African countries, including 24 countries classified as severely indebted low-income countries, for the period 1970-1996. The econometric analysis reveals that external borrowing is positively and significantly related to capital flight, suggesting that to a large extent capital flight is debt-fueled. We estimate that for every dollar of external borrowing in the region, roughly 80 cents flowed back as capital flight in the same year. Capital flight also exhibits a high degree of persistence in the sense that past capital flight is correlated with current and future capital flight. The growth rate differential between the African country and its OECD trading partners is negatively related to capital flight. We also explore the effects of several other factors – inflation, fiscal policy indicators, the interest rate differential, exchange rate appreciation, financial development, and indicators of the political environment and governance. We discuss the implications of the results for debt relief and for policies aimed at preventing capital flight and attracting private capital held abroad.

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