Nigeria Pulse — “Buhari: President says Nigeria doesn’t need foreign aid”:
President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the United States to help Nigeria by plugging all the loopholes that had been used by government officials to steal the country’s assets rather than help with foreign aids.
According to Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Publicity, “Buhari did not go to the US with a begging bowl. We don’t need foreign aid, he told everyone, so long as the world powers can help us plug all the loopholes that had been used to steal our assets.”
A novel approach, maybe; I don’t know how extensively this suggestion of substituting banking reform for development aid has been pitched before. And it’s quite correct that the West’s blind eye toward revenue embezzlement and asset theft schemes (using Western companies and finance networks) is a major scourge on African development in general:
Hundreds of Western multinational firms involved in concession trading in Africa are registered in traditional tax havens, such as the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.
Or they are associated with shell companies registered in the United Kingdom, or are directed via financial entities in Switzerland and the United States.
If the most powerful industrial countries take steps to curb tax evasion and the use of opaque holding companies by multinational resource extraction firms and by their African business partners (often in government positions) it would do much to benefit African citizens.
Court actions in France and U.S. Senate investigations have brought to light vast luxury investments held in France and the U.S. in the names of some African leaders and members of their families.
More importantly, Western governments could start to force banking institutions to implement existing “know your customer” rules. These would compel African leaders to demonstrate how they obtained their fortunes and on what basis the cash is rightly their own.
But I fear Buhari’s appeal is unlikely to be effective on a significant scale, given how little we’ve done against tax avoidance, accounting games, and financial network loopholes that severely hurt us too (albeit at a smaller proportion). If we won’t fix something for ourselves, the odds are sadly even lower that we will fix it anyone else — even for Africa’s largest economy.