We know the story: Africa is poor, and it needs the help from rich countries. And if Western powers have exploited the black continent through slavery, colonialism and resource extraction, that’s all in the past. Nowadays, they are all generous, determined to help eradicate poverty and facilitate sustainable development.
The problem is, this story, propagated ad nauseam by rich countries, is actually quite naive.
We have known for a while now that Africa is a ‘net creditor’ to the rest of the world. The amount of financial resources accumulated abroad through capital flight over the past decades vastly exceeds the resources that run in the other direction, including aid and debt. Between $30 billion and $60 billion are annually siphoned off from the continent, according to a report released in 2015 by the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows established the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), chaired by former South African president Thabo Mbeki. And these estimates are fairly conservative.