Africa Loses $50Bn A Year In Illicit Financial Flows.

By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba.

The Supreme Court of Zambia has just delivered a fundamental and remarkable Judgement. It has fined Mopani Copper Mines $13 million! This is a case in which the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has been battling with Mopani Copper Mines and its Swiss parent company Glencoe since 2009. Glencore PLC is a British multinational commodity trading and mining company with its headquarters based in Baar, Switzerland.

The background is that the ZRA conducted an Audit of Mopani Copper Mines for the period 2006 – 2009, which revealed that the transactions between the company and its Swiss parent multinational, Glencore International AG (GIAG) violated the Arm’s Length Standards (ALS).

An arm’s length transaction refers to a business deal or transaction in which a buyer and seller act independently without one party influencing the other.

Chief Justice Ireen Mambilima sitting with Justice Nigel Mutuna and Justice Mumba Malila ruled that any tax authority would find serious misgivings on the lack of arm’s length on the revealed transactions between Mopani and Glencore.

The Court found Mopani liable of abusing transfer pricing and used it as a mechanism to avoid paying full taxes due to ZRA.


The core part of domestic revenue mobilization for any country is taxation of its citizens and the private sector. For Zambia, its mineral resources present an unparalleled economic opportunity to increase domestic revenue through effective taxation of the mining sector.

Despite the tremendous wealth inherent in this sector, Zambia has been struggling to obtain significant financial benefits through taxes from the sector.

This is due to various factors including the volatile mining tax regime policies but also the increasing tax-avoidance  schemes perpetrated by mine houses that might appear legal but are aggressively aimed at reducing the amount of tax payable.

Multinationals increasingly abuse transfer pricing as a mechanism to avoid paying tax. Developing economies are now increasingly aware of these schemes especially the abuse of transfer pricing. African governments are now establishing robust legislative and administrative frameworks to deal with transfer pricing issues.

For Zambia, curbing the abuse of transfer pricing, is a development financing issue, because without adequate tax revenues, our ability to mobilise domestic resources for development is heavily hampered.

The sensitive challenge for Zambia has been to balance the need to protect its tax base while not seen to be discouraging or hampering foreign direct investment in the mining sector.

Zambia has joined many African countries that have begun to put in place, legal rules on the taxation of cross border transactions and the latest Supreme Court Judgement will go a long way in enhancing these measures.

It should be noted that this “arm’s length principle” as emphasised by the Supreme Court of Zambia is at the core of most global standards on controlling transfer pricing perpetrated by multinationals.


Over the last 50 years, Africa is estimated to have lost in excess of $1 trillion in illicit financial flows (Kar and Cartwright-Smith 2010; Kar and Leblanc 2013).

This amount excludes capital flight. Capital flight is a large-scale exodus of financial assets and capital from a nation due to events such as political or economic instability, currency devaluation or the imposition of capital CONTROLS. This process could entirely be legal or licit.

To resolve the crisis of illicit financial flows and outflows from Africa, the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa tasked the fourth Joint African Union Commission and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (AUC/ECA) Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development held in 2011to handle the matter.

The Conference established a High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa. Illicit financial flows (IFFs) is defined as money that is illegally earned, transferred or
utilize. These funds typically originate from three sources: commercial tax evasion, trade mis-invoicing and the abuse of transfer pricing.

Other origins of illicit financial flows include criminal
activities such as the drug trade, human trafficking, illegal arms dealing, and smuggling of contraband, illegal wildlife trade and bribery and theft by corrupt government officials.

The Panel headed by South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki, established that Africa loses over $50 billion a year through tax avoidance and fraud schemes largely perpetrated by multinational corporations operating in Africa.

It became clear that Africa was a net-creditor to the rest of the world, despite the regular inflow of official development
assistance. The continent continues to suffer from a crisis of insufficient resources for development, largely caused by illicit financial flows.

The Report of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa recommended that Africa must implement measures to radically reduce illicit capital outflows from Africa.

The Panel recognised that the goals of ending poverty in Africa, the goal to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at reducing inequality within and among nations, and the hope to give practical effect to the fundamental objective of the right of all to development, was attainable if African governments and its partners curbed the illicit financial outflows.

About The Author: Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba is Zambia’s Permanent Representative to the African Union and to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Copyright © 2020 ZR.

You can get in touch with our news team by emailing us at: editor@zambiareports.com



  1. Malizgani Nyirenda

    Is it that ZAMBIA has open eyes to day come on do something

    • Mbuto

      Check Emma’s statistics on google search

  2. zisc worker

    Good job ZRA. Now move into Sanlam Life, Hollard Life and Hollard general Insurance, Nico Insurance, Professional Insurance who have been involved in transfer pricing and not only hurting Zisc Life and general but also taking out billions every year. These are clusters of transfer pricing pandemic. Move in and save locally owned insurance companies. Phoenix frustrated Zambian CEO, as is being done by every foreign owned companies.

    • laka laka

      zisc worker. Why do you want so many companies to close? Madison is already on the brink of closure. What do you get by closing do many companies. Your hatred for international companies is going to kill you and Zambians jobs

  3. hi hi = HH

    It is African politicians who facilitate transfer of billions through their nefarious activities. They are enemies of Africa. Cage all politicians for life.

  4. thepeoplehavespoken

    Boring…typical backward African mentality..Corporations are 10% of the problem with Africa lacking infrastructure. Before we start whining about whats leaving our countries each year, lets look at what our governments actually do collect in revenue each year (for example South Africa collects $86 billion in taxes every year, and through corruption with wasteful expenditure and tender fraud at government level close to 12$ billion dollars is ost annualy according to latest studies). yet children dont even have food or water in the townships or urban slums near Johannesburg…It its the politicians such as Thabo Mbeki himself who have presided over the looting of billions from this continent, and when its convinent they throw the blame on capitalists and white people because the people are dumb enough to eat up….Please wake up all of you. As zambians google and look at how much tax revenue was collected in Zambia last year, look at how much debt was raised by your government with private banks internationally and tally how much of that money actually went where it ws supposed to. Once you’ve done that maybe you will actually realize its your fault for electing a group of kleptocrats in the ANC, PF, Jubilee Party (kenya) etc. all just a bunch of crooks that are elected by a population kept deliberately illeterate so they cant make adequate voting decisions

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