Worldwide, a loss of trust in multilateralism is weakening the capacity of globalization to
deliver a more sustainable and fairer world. Growing awareness of the scale, scope and
cost of illicit financial flows is stoking growing scepticism about the power of collective
action versus unilateral measures. It is against this backdrop that the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Economic Development in Africa
Report 2020 tackles the relationship between illicit financial flows and sustainable
development in Africa. Illicit financial flows – cross border exchanges of value, monetary
or otherwise, which are illegally earned, transferred or used – cost African countries
around $50 billion per year, dwarfing the amount of official development assistance
the continent receives annually. Illicit financial flows are a shared problem and a shared
responsibility for developed and developing countries; their economic impacts are a
major development issue across the globe, even more so for African economies whose
sustainable development prospects critically pivot on massive investments.

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