Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


COP10 Side event: "Combatting Illicit Financial Flows in the Sub-Saharan African Region: A Look at Regional Networks and Other Initiatives" 

  13 October 2020


Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us for this important discussion on an urgent challenge facing the Sub-Saharan African region.

Illicit financial flows are draining away vital revenues from Africa, undermining stability and hindering progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Economic Development in Africa Report 2020 from our partners at UNCTAD estimates that every year, an estimated 88.6 billion dollars, equivalent to 3.7 per cent of Africa’s GDP, leaves the continent as illicit capital flight.

Compare this with total annual inflows of official development assistance, valued at 48 billion dollars on average, and yearly foreign direct investment at 54 billion dollars.

Total illicit capital flight from Africa from 2000 to 2015 amounted to some 836 billion dollars. Given that Africa’s total external debt stock was 770 billion dollars in 2018, this means that Africa is in fact a “net creditor to the world”.

Africa’s vast potential and resources can only translate into development dividends, and into social and economic benefits for the people of Africa, if money and assets go where they belong and are not siphoned off.

This priority is recognized by the SDGs, with reduction of illicit financial flows an explicit target under SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.

As the 2015 Mbeki report has shown, illicit financial flows are aided and abetted by crime and corruption.

The General Assembly high-level meeting on illicit financial flows in May 2019 identified the UN Convention against Corruption and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime as providing “the most comprehensive and universal instruments to-date to reduce illicit financial flows originating from corruption and organized crime.”

This session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is therefore a timely opportunity to discuss how our collective action can combat illicit financial flows more effectively.

Regional networks bring practitioners together, building trust and enabling the sharing of expertise, tools and training, thus providing a valuable means to address cross-border challenges like illicit financial flows.

UNODC is proud to partner with South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority to act as secretariat of ARINSA, the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network of Southern Africa.

This informal network of practitioners from Eastern and Southern African countries has grown to 17 member States, and represents an important conduit for technical assistance provided by UNODC in the areas of asset forfeiture, anti-money laundering, anti-corruption and countering terrorism financing and cybercrime.

The region has built up and strengthened asset forfeiture regimes over the past decade, thanks to the commitment of ARINSA countries and the generous support of partners like the UK.

Allow me to take this opportunity to thank Ambassador Leigh Turner for the UK’s commitment to continue funding our anti-money laundering work in Southern Africa.

Together, we have achieved concrete progress.

Four years ago, ARINSA countries reported a total of 355 money laundering investigations and seizure orders valued at 38 million dollars. Now in the first nine months of 2020, 599 cases have been investigated, and the value of seizure orders amounted to more than 700 million dollars.

Countries in the region have also channelled forfeited proceeds to fund specific development initiatives.

In Kenya, authorities recently contributed some 19 million dollars from forfeited funds to assist with Covid-19 relief efforts. Last year, Namibia used funds to buy vehicles and IT tools for its law enforcement authorities.

I commend the ARINSA countries for these achievements, and I hope this side event will spark ideas for building on this progress.

Going forward, we need to broaden engagement with national and regional actors, including by connecting existing networks, to strengthen institutional support for the fight against illicit financial flows and to maximize impact.

Key stakeholders include the African Union, OECD and FATF, the African Development Bank, the sub-regional economic communities, the African Prosecutors Association and the G5 Sahel.

UNODC stands ready to facilitate these efforts. In collaboration with the World Bank and UNODC Stolen Assets Recovery initiative, UNODC has supported the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network for East Africa and West Africa, in addition to ARINSA.

Our Office also supports the Network of Anti-Corruption Institutions in West Africa, the Eastern Africa Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities and the pan-African Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities in Africa.

Furthermore, UNODC is currently developing a Strategic Vision for Africa for the next ten years.

Through this comprehensive strategy, our Office will scale up support to counter illicit financial flows and corruption, building on successes from African Member States, and addressing linkages with priority challenges including terrorism, wildlife and forest crime, and other forms of transnational organized crime.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to conclude by thanking our side event partners, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

I also very much welcome the participation of Mr. Hamada El-Sawy, Prosecutor General of Egypt, and Ms. Shamila Batohi, National Director of Public Prosecutions of South Africa, and I congratulate both countries for putting in place new and strengthened means to address corruption and money laundering.

Notably under the leadership of Ms. Bathohi, South Africa has established the Investigating Directorate in the Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions, and just this month announced charges in relation to a major corruption case. 

Egypt has created dedicated functions addressing economic crime and corruption, including a presidential as well as a cabinet advisor on corruption.

In addition, Egypt will host the next session of the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption in 2021, which will take forward the political declaration to be adopted at the first-ever UN General Assembly special session against corruption, also taking place next year, in June.

UNODC is supporting preparations for the UNGASS, and many African countries have been very actively engaged in the process, which will help to keep the fight against illicit financial flows high on the international agenda.

In this context, UNODC also contributed to the Secretary-General’s Initiative on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond, by elaborating policy options to tackle illicit financial flows and related vulnerabilities, to address the current crisis as well as long-term institutional strengthening and capacity building.

We need all countries, our partners in Africa as well as transit and destination countries, to join this fight.

Combatting illicit financial flows is a shared responsibility and an essential step towards recovering better and protecting Africa’s sustainable development and future promise.

UNODC is your steadfast partner in these endeavours.

I wish you productive discussions.

Thank you.