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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.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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