Wealthy governments, including the UK, bear responsibility for much of Africa’s loss of resources.
Whilst we often hear tales of Britain’s benevolence when it comes to aiding Africa, these tales are not always correct. In reality, Africa is losing $192 billion each year to the rest of the world – nearly six and a half times the amount it receives in aid each year.
Researched published this week by 13 African and UK NGOs shows that when compared to all other inflows to Africa – such as loans, foreign investment and remittances – Africa suffers a net loss of $58 billion a year.
Africa’s losses include: $46.3 billion in profits made by multinational companies; $21 billion in debt payments, often following irresponsible loans; $35.3 billion in illicit financial flows facilitated by the global network of tax havens; $23.4 billion in foreign currency reserves given as loans to other governments; $17 billion in illegal logging; $1.3 billion in illegal fishing and $6 billion as a result of the migration of skilled workers from Africa.
In addition to these resource flows out of the continent, Africa is forced to pay a further $10.6 billion to adapt to the effects of climate change that it did not cause, and $26 billion to pursue low carbon economic growth.
Wealthy governments, including the UK, bear responsibility for much of Africa’s loss of resources. The UK, which has historically been a key destination country for migrant health workers, bears a hefty share of the responsibility for climate change; and with its network of ten tax havens presides over a global system that facilitates the loss of billions in illicit financial flows from Africa each year.
Yet these facts are being lost amongst aid propaganda. The idea of the UK as the ‘generous benefactor’ is a narrative that has been bought into and passed on from politicians, the media, the public and NGOs ourselves.
These myths have led to hugely distorted public perceptions with 26 per cent of the UK public believing the government spends more on aid than education, schools or pensions. These myths can also do nothing but long-term damage to international solidarity and global development.
The primary measure by which we assess the UK’s support for Africa’s development must be its action, not its aid. These actions must include urgent measures to close down the UK’s network of tax havens, curb the plundering of African resources by multinational companies and enact ambitious and far-reaching climate change targets.
Real progress towards ending global poverty requires the government, media and NGOs alike to end the misrepresentations of our financial relationship with Africa and tackle the failures of the current financial system and the systemic inequalities that underpin it.
For more information on the ‘Honest Accounts?’ report, visit the Health Poverty Action website.
Natalie Sharples is senior policy advisor at Health Poverty Action
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