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Open Veins of Africa Bleeding Heavily

Ndongo Samba Sylla, Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Externally imposed structural adjustment programs (SAPs), after the early 1980s’ sovereign debt crises, have forced African economies to be even more open – at great economic cost. SAPs have made them more (food) import-dependent while increasing their vulnerability to commodity price shocks and global liquidity flows.  Leonce Ndikumana and his colleagues estimate over 55% of capital flight – defined as illegally acquired or transferred assets – from Africa is from oil-rich nations, with Nigeria alone losing $467 billion during 1970-2018.  Over the same period, Angola lost $103 billion. Its poverty rate rose from 34% to 52% over the past decade, as the poor more than doubled from 7.5 to 16 million.  Oil proceeds have been embezzled by TNCs and Angola’s elite.  From 1970 to 2018, Côte d’Ivoire lost $55 billion to capital flight. Growing 40% of the world’s cocoa, it gets only 5–7% of global cocoa profits, with farmers getting little. Most cocoa income goes to TNCs, politicians and their collaborators.  Mining giant South Africa (SA) has lost $329 billion to capital flight over the last five decades. Mis-invoicing, other modes of embezzling public resources, and tax evasion augment private wealth hidden in offshore financial centres and tax havens...  During 2000-2020, total foreign direct investment income from Zambia was twice total debt servicing for external government and government-guaranteed loans. In 2021, the deficit in the ‘primary income’ account (mainly returns to capital) of Zambia’s balance of payments was 12.5% of GDP.  As interest payments on public external debt came to ‘only’ 3.5% of GDP, most of this deficit (9% of GDP) was due to profit and dividend remittances, as well as interest payments on private external debt.