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January 20, 2019

Kenya tops illicit financial activities in Africa - report

A currency dealer counts Kenya shillings at a money exchange counter./COURTESY
A currency dealer counts Kenya shillings at a money exchange counter./COURTESY

Kenya is the leading tax haven in Africa, Financial Secrecy Index released on Friday last week by the Tax Justice Network has revealed

The country registered a financial secrecy score of 80 per cent, sixth highest in the world after Vanuatu, Bahamas, Paraguay, Maldives and Bolivia which scored 88.6, 84.5, 84.3, 81.1 and 80.3 respectively.

This means that the country is a corridor for illicit financial activities like tax evasion and money laundering, hurting its revenue collection targets. Kenya missed its revenue collection target by Sh40 billion in last financial year and the margin is expected to widen this current financial year.

Global Financial Integrity and Brookings estimates show that 0.7 per cent of total trade in Kenya is lost through illicit outflows.

Although Switzerland and USA led the world in overall Financial Secrecy Index Value (FSIV), scoring 1590 and 1398 respectively, Kenya was the only African country that appeared on top 30 list of 112 jurisdictions reviewed in the index

Kenya is ranked position 27 with FSIV of 337 , followed by Liberia which scored 277 and ranked position 38 globally. Other African countries ranked in the report include Mauritius at position 49, South Africa 50, Tanzania at 75 while Ghana, Botswana and Gambia came in at position 95, 103 and 106 respectively

However, the index ranks Kenya below South Africa in share of the global market of offshore financial services. South Africa constitute to 0.18 per cent of global share while Kenya commands a paltry O.04. Mauritius and Liberia hold 0.02 per cent each.

US is leading the world in concentration of international financial centres at 22.3 per cent followed by UK and Germany at 17.37 and 5.13 per cent respectively

According to the Tax Justice Network, the index is a result of over a year of research by a dedicated team using information on the legal, administrative, regulatory, and tax structures of the jurisdictions assessed.

Surveys were sent to the Ministries of Finance and the Financial Intelligence Units of all 112 reviewed jurisdictions which included targeted questions about the jurisdiction’s tax and regulatory system.

This ranking is likely to steam opposition against the proposed Nairobi International Financial Centre which anti illicit financial flows crusaders believe will turn Kenya into a tax haven like Panama, Luxembourg and Bahamas

Last year, Jared Maranga, policy-lead tax and investment at Tax Justice Network said that the NIFC law signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta in July last year brings about the issue of secrecy as several provisions relating to its establishment fall short of transparency and accountability.

“It will undermine the raising of revenues domestically, making Kenya a financial secrecy jurisdiction and is subject to abuse given that neither the regulations nor the incentives have been indicated,” said Maranga.

Even so, Treasury CS Henry Rotich has defended the financial hub which is expected to be set up in Upper Hill, saying that it will attract more foreign investors in the country.

Speaking during the launch of Africa Foresight report compiled by Brooking late last month, Rotich said that that the government will increase efficiency in curbing illicit financial flows in its plan to increase domestic revenue to 25 per cent of GDP

According to Africa Foresight report, Sub Sahara Africa loses at least $50 billion (Sh5 trillion) every year to illicit financial flows, mis pricing and other forms of capital flight, with countries like Togo and Liberia losing 94.2 and 83 per cent of total trade to illicit outflows

Generally, 5.3 to 9.9 per cent of Sub Saharan Africa total trade is lost in illicit financial outflows

Even so, the survey ranked Kenya as the least affected country in Africa. Only 0.7 per cent of its total trade is lost to illicit outflows

However, the African Development Bank survey on illicit financial flows in Kenya dubbed 'The High 5' show that the country lost over $10.6 billion in accumulated illicit financial flows, a figure that is equal to 15 per cent of the country's GDP

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