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Regional CSO Workshop and the 12th Pan African Conference on Illicit Financial Flows and Taxation

Regional CSO Workshop and the 12th Pan African Conference on Illicit Financial Flows and Taxation

On 24 and 25 June 2024, our Programme Officer – Africa, Aya Douabou, participated in a CSO workshop co-organised by Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA) and Observatoire Tunisien de l'Economie (OTE) entitled "The Role of African Countries in Defining Global Tax Rules."

Over 50 participants from 5 African regions attended the workshop, which unpacked critical issues about reforming the international tax architecture.

Participants were grouped per region (West and Central Africa, North Africa, East and Southern Africa) for consultations and regional advocacy action plans on the UN Tax Convention to be developed. Each group will follow up on their outlined activities to continue mobilising around the UN Tax Convention at the regional level. 

To conclude the workshop, we drafted a document to capture our shared views, aspirations, and commitments to a UN Tax Convention that upholds human rights and economic, social, environmental, and climate justice, among other things. 

From 26 to 28 June 2024, we also participated in the Pan African Conference on Illicit Financial Flows: "Africa's Tax Agenda in Combatting Illicit Financial Flows: From Words to Action," an event co-organised by the African Union Commission, the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), the Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA), the African Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI), the African Organisation of English-speaking Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI-E), and the African Organisation of Public Accounts Committees (AFROPAC).  

Over 250 diverse participants, including high-level senior officials in key government ministries and departments such as supreme audit institutions, central banks, financial intelligence units, tax administrations, ministries of finance, mining, and commerce; parliamentarians, anti-corruption agencies, from key public finance management agencies from different countries, international organisations, civil society organisations, revenue authorities, affiliated regional and sub-regional organisations (AfDB, RECs, UNECA, UNCTAD, Afreximbank, BADEA, ATI, NEPAD, AU-ABC, PAP, UNDP, UN-OSAA) parliamentarians, and cooperating partners, attended the conference.

The objectives of the conference were to:

a) Take stock of the best practices and relevant continental-wide initiatives undertaken by institutions and partners in response to the African Union Heads of State and Government decisions and commitments to curb IFFs, meeting the financing gap for Africa's development as envisioned under Agenda 2063 and the HLP report findings and recommendations in combating IFFs in Africa;

b) Discuss the effectiveness of different measures implemented in response to the findings of critical African reports on combating illicit financial flows (IFFs).

c) Retrospect on the contributions of the African Union and stakeholders, including the Africa Tax Administration Forum, Tax Justice Network Africa, and others, in addressing IFFs at different levels.

d) Facilitate and engage multi-stakeholder partnerships to ensure meaningful inclusivity and broad-based support. 

Several enlightening panel discussions relevant to GI-ESCR's programmatic priorities were held, among which:  

  • Tax, IFFs, and the Global Financial Architecture

This panel highlighted the need for more efforts at the national, regional, and international levels to mobilise African countries to advance common reform positions that will protect Africa's tax bases and contribute to curbing illicit financial flows, in particular through the UN Tax Convention process. 

  • Understanding the linkages between Illicit Financial Flows and Debt in Africa

Statistics show that at least half of African countries are distressed or at high risk of debt distress. This panel delved into these alarming statistics and the complex interplay between illicit financial practices and burgeoning debt burdens across the continent. From exploring how IFFs exacerbate debt vulnerabilities to discussing strategies for enhanced transparency and accountability, this session offered invaluable insights for policymakers, scholars, and practitioners seeking to address the root causes of Africa's debt challenges. 

  • Taxation for Gender Equality and the Implications of Illicit Financial Flows

This session delved into the transformative power of taxation in addressing gender inequality across Africa. Its aim was to unearth innovative strategies that harness taxation as a catalyst for advancing gender equity and fostering economic empowerment throughout the continent. It thoroughly analysed the distinct impacts of taxation on both men and women, delving into policy interventions that have the potential to enhance women's access to vital resources and opportunities. 

On the last day of the conference, several side sessions were held to address more critical issues linked to IFFs, complementing the proceedings of the first two days.  

We moderated a side session entitled "Combatting Illicit Financial Flows to Transform Education Financing in Africa: Africa's Tax Agenda for the African Union Year of Education." This session built on the findings and recommendations of ActionAid's report Transforming Education Financing in Africa: A Strategic Agenda for the African Union Year of Education that GI-ESCR contributed to and endorsed. The panelists were: 

  • El Hadj Moussa Sarr, TaxEd Alliance Coordinator, ActionAid Senegal, shared his reflections on the challenges and opportunities in Senegal regarding addressing IFFs and raising domestic revenue to invest adequately in education. 
  • Ucizi Ngulube, TaxEd Alliance Coordinator, ActionAid Zambia, highlighted the challenges and opportunities in Zambia regarding addressing IFFs and boosting domestic revenue to invest sufficiently in education. 
  • Everlyn Muendo, Policy Lead for Tax and International Financial Architecture at Tax Justice Network Africa, underscored the importance of the UN Tax Convention for the adequate and sustainable financing of public services, including education, and how we can support Africa's efforts in the negotiations at the UN level. 

This event was an opportunity to remind us that education is a human right and that States are primarily responsible for delivering and financing public education under international human rights law. It also stressed the need for African States to develop progressive fiscal policies by shifting the tax burden from vulnerable groups to super-rich companies and individuals responsible for tax avoidance. This will foster the increase of the tax-to-GDP ratio necessary to finance public education sustainably.

Finally, panelists strongly urged all stakeholders, especially CSOs across Africa, to lobby their governments to rally behind the African group, which, more than ever, needs a solid and united push in the negotiations around the UN Tax Convention process. 

The Pan African Conference was officially closed with the reading of the Tunis Declaration. 

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