Washington DC, 09 December, 2022
The High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) from Africa and its Secretariat – Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA), in collaboration with the Working Group on the Implementation of the Common African Position on Asset Recovery (CAPAR) and Albany State University, Georgia, USA conducted a workshop today which focused on Understanding and Implementation of the CAPAR. The workshop was held on the margins of the 20th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) which concludes on 10th December, 2022.
Its aim was to bring a stronger understanding of the CAPAR and the African asset recovery agenda to global stakeholders while highlighting their roles in its successful implementation. In his opening statement as the Chair of the workshop, Barrister Akere T. Muna, member of the High-Level Panel on IFFs from Africa and Co-Chair of the CAPAR Working Group highlighted the importance of holding this conversation at this time and using this global forum given the necessity for cooperation and self-awareness by Africa’s international counterparts in ensuring the legal recovery of its assets. He welcomed all participants and attendees noting that the commitment of the global north to supporting the recovery of Africa’s assets is a stipulation that cannot be ignored or done without. Furthermore, the continued narrative of corruption in Africa without addressing the role of non-African entities in enabling this should not continue. He particularly noted the recent Glencore scandal and the ensuing investigation which highlights the major role played by multinationals in facilitating corruption on the African continent.
Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) which represented the government of Nigeria in its role as the Champion for anti-corruption on the continent began by acknowledging the collaboration for this particular panel. He stressed that the trajectory of advanced economies which have developed largely on domestic public resources indicates that leaving IFFs from Africa unattended is an existential issue. This was most evident during the Covid-19 pandemic which was the most recent illustration that domestic public resources are critical to African countries meeting their own needs through the central role of the state. He added that on the one hand Africa is carrying a debt burden and in search of cheap loans and Official Development Assistance (ODA), yet there is this huge leak of much needed resources from IFFs which has been ongoing on since pre-colonial periods and still exists till today. He further underlined that Africa still faces an active push back from the global North on Africa’s efforts to recover stolen and diverted assets. As a way of recommending solutions, he noted that African countries need to bring together their resources, and their power in order to push for solutions that have been identified by many different studies and many different processes. This is because without dealing with IFFs, Africa cannot and will not achieve SDGs as well as control its development priorities.
The workshop saw interventions on various aspects of the CAPAR by selected panelists. Dr Esa Onoja, Chief of Staff of ICPC delivered an overview of the CAPAR. After delivering details on the journey which led to the development and adoption of the CAPAR including the fact that it was founded in the AU Special Declaration on IFFs and also stemmed from the AU’s assembly theme for 2017 on Winning the Fight Against Corruption. He went on to highlight the necessity for the CAPAR including its importance in stemming/reversing IFFs. Following his explanation of its four pillars, he highlighted the policy recommendations proposed by the CAPAR including the need to prioritize cooperation and partnerships towards recovery of by advocacy and engagement at a regional and global levels.
Steve Karangizi, former Director of the African Legal Support Facility and member of the CAPAR Working Group stressed the need and process of establishing a regional escrow account which is a key element of the CAPAR. He further indicated that select institutions that can host Escrow Account such as Africa’s continental and regional development Banks exist for such a purpose. Benefits of enacting such accounts include increased credibility of the asset recovery process as well as the minimization of value erosion of the assets in question. Finally, Mr. Karangizi underlined that the CAPAR and its ensuing proposed frameworks for implementation recommend innovative ways in which an escrow account or multiple escrow accounts could be established to preserve and grow assets of African origin kept outside the respective countries at great loss and to the detriment of development aspirations of African States.
Albany State University, a key partner in the organization of this workshop and in the work on asset recovery was also represented by its professor, Dr Roger-Claude Liwanga. In his intervention, he spoke on whistleblower protection as a necessary instrument for the implementation of the CAPAR. He stressed that corruption is more attractive where the possibility of detection and investigation is minor and as such, it is imperative to encourage whistleblowers to make disclosures about the assets that were or are being illicitly removed from Africa. He further noted the troubling reality faced by whistleblowers in many countries where enacted penal codes containing broad definition of defamation exposes them to the high-risk of criminal prosecutions. Emphasizing the need to address inconsistent whistleblower protection across the African continent, he stated that the African Union needs to adopt its own continental whistleblower protection policies which cater for the protection of whistleblowers who report violations thus increasing the accountability of companies and preventing them from retaliating against whistleblowers among other policies.
Advocate Donald Deya spoke on the crucial role of civil society to the process of implementing the CAPAR. He highlighted that this role is applicable for both African and non-African civil society given the need for all-inclusive action on the asset recovery agenda. He went on to emphasize the work of the civil society in driving action to the anti IFFs agenda since the release of the HLP report and even prior to that. This has led to increased awareness at the policy making level as well as change in national, regional and global laws which now support improved financial regulation in favor of developing nations.
As part of its participation in the 20th IACC, the delegation of the CAPAR Working Group engaged non-African stakeholders in various sessions and as part of selected panels. These engagements were carried out in an effort to improve understanding of the CAPAR and consolidate support for its holistic implementation as well as Africa’s recovery agenda at the global level.
It should be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and AU Champion on the African Anti-Corruption Year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (February 2019) had affirmed the need to develop a common African position on the recovery of African assets hosted in foreign jurisdictions. This recommendation was adopted by African Union Heads of Government in February 2020.
CAPAR aims to assist African Union Member States to identify, repatriate and effectively manage these assets in a manner that respects their sovereignty. It outlines Africa’s priorities for asset recovery in four pillars: detection and identification of illicitly removed assets; recovery and return of illicitly removed assets; management of recovered assets; and cooperation and partnerships to harmonize the process of identification and recovery.