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Showing posts for "Sub-Saharan Africa"

This Week in Markets and Democracy: FIFA Investigations, Corruption in Romania and the Maldives, New South Sudan Report

by Shannon K. O'Neil
British comedian known as Lee Nelson (unseen) throws banknotes at FIFA President Sepp Blatter as he arrives for a news conference after the Extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee Meeting at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland July 20, 2015. World football's troubled governing body FIFA will vote for a new president, to replace Sepp Blatter, at a special congress to be held on February 26 in Zurich, the organisation said on Monday (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann). British comedian known as Lee Nelson (unseen) throws banknotes at FIFA President Sepp Blatter as he arrives for a news conference after the Extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee Meeting at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland July 20, 2015. World football's troubled governing body FIFA will vote for a new president, to replace Sepp Blatter, at a special congress to be held on February 26 in Zurich, the organisation said on Monday (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann).

FIFA Investigates Its Own Corruption
A year after the United States and Switzerland went after top FIFA officials on fraud, money laundering, and racketeering charges tied to a $150 million corruption scheme, soccer’s international governing body is taking actions itself. The federation fined former vice president Jeffrey Webb $1 million for accepting bribes and banned him for life from the sport. It also opened an investigation on former President Sepp Blatter and two top associates for bribery, corruption, and conflicts of interest, including adding several illegal provisions to their contracts—boosting their combined salaries to over $80 million, and guaranteeing them eight years of pay even if fired for just cause. FIFA’s new dynamism may begin to restore its tarnished reputation, and the information it uncovers could help U.S. and Swiss prosecutors with their own ongoing criminal cases.

Romania Steps Up Anticorruption Efforts, the Maldives Falls Back

Romania’s and the Maldives’ paths are diverging in the fight against corruption. Last week, Romanian prosecutors showed their independence and resolve by charging former Prime Minister Victor Ponta with abuse of office for influence peddling, for nominating a media mogul to parliament in exchange for financing Tony Blair’s 2012 visit. (Ponta resigned last year amid protests over a separate corruption case.) Ponta’s problems follow the interior minister’s resignation over a pending investigation into alleged embezzlement and abuse of power. In contrast, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen responded to an Al Jazeera documentary exposing his role in a $1.5 billion money laundering scheme by raiding the offices of a local newspaper and human rights NGO. With a cowed judiciary and a stifled press, it is unlikely the increasingly repressive president will face an investigation any time soon.

Corruption Fuels Conflict in South Sudan

A new report from advocacy organization The Sentry documents how South Sudan’s leaders have looted the country throughout three years of brutal conflict that has displaced 2.5 million and left even more destitute. President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar have stoked ethnic fighting and killings while making millions from illegal stakes in oil, mining, telecoms, construction, and defense companies. With the ill-gotten proceeds, their families and cronies purchased luxury cars, flew in private jets, and bought lavish properties in Australia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. The United States—South Sudan’s largest donor—can help hold these leaders accountable by imposing sanctions, cracking down on money laundering, and helping to seize and return assets.

This Week in Markets and Democracy: New Panama Papers, 1MDB Scandal Developments, Turkey Targets Press

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after a news conference following the National Security Council and cabinet meetings at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, July 20, 2016 (Reuters/Umit Bektas). Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after a news conference following the National Security Council and cabinet meetings at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, July 20, 2016 (Reuters/Umit Bektas).

New Panama Papers Expose Africa’s Offshore Dealings
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released a second round of Panama Papers. The documents reveal how private firms, business executives, and corrupt officials in fifty-two of Africa’s fifty-four nations hired Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to set up shell companies—many to avoid taxes and hide bribes. Some 1,400 anonymous companies had links to African oil, gas, and mining businesses, facilitating the more than $50 billion in illicit financial outflows from the continent each year. The new releases should give authorities evidence to go after assets at home and abroad—where billions in corruption proceeds are stashed.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Mexico’s Anticorruption Reforms, South Africa’s Anticorruption Setbacks, Venezuela’s Slow-Motion Coup

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (R) speaks, while Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez stands next to him, during a ceremony commemorating the 200th death anniversary of South American independence hero Francisco de Miranda in Caracas, Venezuela July 14, 2016 (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins). Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (R) speaks, while Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez stands next to him, during a ceremony commemorating the 200th death anniversary of South American independence hero Francisco de Miranda in Caracas, Venezuela July 14, 2016 (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins).

Mexico’s New Anticorruption Tools
President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law long-awaited rules to step up Mexico’s fight against corruption. He had to veto an earlier version that would have forced private firms that receive government money to reveal their income and assets. The new measures mandate that all public servants disclose their assets, income, and tax returns. They also set up an independent prosecutor’s office and up the punishments for bribery, embezzlement, and influence peddling. While some civil society groups had hoped for more, the new anticorruption system provides new and stronger tools for those eager to take on bad behavior.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: U.S. Hunts Stolen Uzbek Assets, Bribery Still Pays, Uganda’s Democracy Backtracks

by Shannon K. O'Neil
A man passes by a poster of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni and a poster of opposition leader Kizza Besigye in town of Kaabong in Karamoja region, Uganda, February 17, 2016 (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic). A man passes by a poster of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni and a poster of opposition leader Kizza Besigye in town of Kaabong in Karamoja region, Uganda, February 17, 2016 (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic).

United States Hunts Stolen Uzbek Assets
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is having a hard time collecting foreign officials’ ill-gotten gains. After finding evidence of bribery, the DOJ still needs to physically seize assets. The latest setback comes in the case against the Uzbek president’s daughter, Gulnara Karimova, for accepting bribes from Russian telecoms company VimpelCom. In the current round the DOJ and Uzbekistan are vying for some $114 million stashed in Karimova’s Irish bank accounts. This is just a small part of the $850 million the DOJ believes Karimova hid in accounts across Belgium, Luxembourg, and Ireland. If they get the money the Uzbek government, led by Karimova’s father, is already demanding its “rightful” return to Uzbekistan, the “victim” of corruption.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Labor Rights in Supply Chains, Bank Secrecy Act, and the Kimberley Process

by Shannon K. O'Neil
A man displays a rough diamond, from the Boda region, for sale in Bangui May 1, 2014. Despite a 2013 ban on diamond exports by The Kimberley Process, a global watchdog set up to stop the trade in "blood diamonds", rough diamonds are still commonly offered for sale in Central African Republic (Reuters/Emmanuel Braun). A man displays a rough diamond, from the Boda region, for sale in Bangui May 1, 2014. Despite a 2013 ban on diamond exports by The Kimberley Process, a global watchdog set up to stop the trade in "blood diamonds", rough diamonds are still commonly offered for sale in Central African Republic (Reuters/Emmanuel Braun).

Supply Chains Take Center Stage at International Labor Conference
Of the $26 trillion in commerce flowing around the world, over 70 percent are intermediate goods. This reflects the rise of global supply chains. The International Labor Organization (ILO) conference put this dominant means of production on the agenda for the first time this year, addressing working conditions for those within these chains. Government and business leaders from the ILO’s 187 member countries spent the past two weeks debating whether to set official standards to push companies like Walmart, Gap, and Nestlé to address labor violations along their transnational production chains. Though any new rules would be non-binding, historically ILO standards have prompted legislation.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Deadly Kenyan Protests, Vietnam’s Labor Rights, Still No Haiti Election

by Shannon K. O'Neil
A riot policeman fires a teargas canister to disperse supporters of Kenya's opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) during a protest at the premises hosting the headquarters of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to demand the disbandment of the electoral body ahead of next year's election in Nairobi, Kenya, May 23, 2016 (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya). A riot policeman fires a teargas canister to disperse supporters of Kenya's opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) during a protest at the premises hosting the headquarters of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to demand the disbandment of the electoral body ahead of next year's election in Nairobi, Kenya, May 23, 2016 (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya).

Electoral Violence Starts Early in Kenya
In Kenya, police cracked down on opposition protests, killing three and injuring more. With elections still more than a year away, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) party is demanding that current electoral officials resign for corruption and bias toward President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee coalition. In the wake of the bloodshed CORD halted the demonstrations and agreed to negotiations, responding to other governments’ calls for dialogue. But given Kenya’s history of electoral violence and impunity, many expect clashes to continue.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: UK Anticorruption Summit

by Shannon K. O'Neil
British Prime Minister Cameron is joined by Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, (left) Sarah Chayes, a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program, (second left) US Secretary of State John Kerry, (third from left) and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, (right), as he opens the international anti-corruption summit on May 12, 2016 in London, England. Leaders from many of the worlds nations are gathering in London for the summit, which is aimed at stepping up action to tackle the problem of corruption (Reuters/Dan Kitwood/Pool). British Prime Minister Cameron is joined by Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, (left) Sarah Chayes, a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program, (second left) US Secretary of State John Kerry, (third from left) and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, (right), as he opens the international anti-corruption summit on May 12, 2016 in London, England. Leaders from many of the worlds nations are gathering in London for the summit, which is aimed at stepping up action to tackle the problem of corruption (Reuters/Dan Kitwood/Pool).

British Prime Minister David Cameron gathered government officials, civil society advocates, and business leaders in London for a one-day summit on corruption, a global “cancer” hindering economic development and growth. Forty countries signed a Global Declaration Against Corruption, promising to prevent, uncover, and punish corruption “wherever it exists.” Many countries followed up the lofty rhetoric with concrete commitments: twenty-one pledged stronger legislation for returning stolen assets, fourteen will open public contracts to scrutiny for the first time, and the UK and five other countries will jointly launch a new anticorruption center to help investigate and prosecute cross-border cases.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Honduras’ Anticorruption Fight, Freedom House Report, Conflict Minerals Setback

by Shannon K. O'Neil
A demonstrator holds a sign that reads "Out JOH", in a reference to Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez, during a march to demand the resignation of Hernandez in Tegucigalpa, August 21, 2015. Thousands of protesters have been continuing demonstrations in Tegucigalpa, calling for the resignation of Hernandez over a $200 million corruption scandal at the Honduran Institute of Social Security (Reuters/Jorge Cabrera). A demonstrator holds a sign that reads "Out JOH", in a reference to Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez, during a march to demand the resignation of Hernandez in Tegucigalpa, August 21, 2015. Thousands of protesters have been continuing demonstrations in Tegucigalpa, calling for the resignation of Hernandez over a $200 million corruption scandal at the Honduran Institute of Social Security (Reuters/Jorge Cabrera).

Honduras’ New Anticorruption Fighter Takes on the President
Last summer allegations that Honduran officials stole more than $200 million dollars from the social security system led to widespread public protests and calls for President Juan Orlando Hernández’s resignation. The scandal spurred the creation of the Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), an anticorruption body backed by the Organization of American States (OAS) and modeled after the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Now active, MACCIH officials say they will investigate the case. Given MACCIH’s more limited prosecutorial autonomy and much smaller budget, many wonder if it can match the impressive results of its Guatemalan counterpart, which—working with the attorney general—brought down former president Otto Pérez Molina.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Panama Papers, Curbing Tax Evasion, U.S. Cuts Tanzania Aid

by Shannon K. O'Neil
People demonstrate against Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson in Reykjavik, Iceland on April 4, 2016 after a leak of documents by so-called Panama Papers stoked anger over his wife owning a tax haven-based company with large claims on the country's collapsed banks (Reuters/Stigtryggur Johannsson). People demonstrate against Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson in Reykjavik, Iceland on April 4, 2016 after a leak of documents by so-called Panama Papers stoked anger over his wife owning a tax haven-based company with large claims on the country's collapsed banks (Reuters/Stigtryggur Johannsson).

Panama Papers Expose Weak Regulations
The “Panama Papers” are an unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files revealing a complex global network of hidden wealth. For four decades, Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca helped to set up over 200,000 shell companiesa favored tool for laundering money, stashing ill-gotten resources, and evading taxes—for tens of thousands of clients in over fifty countries, with current and former heads of state among the 143 politicians and cronies named. So far the revelations have forced Iceland’s prime minister and the president of Transparency International’s Chile branch to resign, and upped support for a Brexit given British Prime Minister David Cameron’s involvement. The Panama Papers further expose weaknesses in global financial regulation. More than half of the leaked shell companies are based in UK  territories100,000 in the British Virgin Islands alone—where Cameron has tried to end such anonymity by legally mandating a public registry of companies’ owners. European banks HSBC, Credit Suisse, and UBS are among the ten institutions that worked most frequently with the Panamanian firm to create offshore accounts for clients. Since the leak, countries including the United States and Germany have proposed new legislation to increase transparency around offshore companies.

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CSMD Spring Break Reading List

by Shannon K. O'Neil
People walk on the rock at the Trou aux Biches beach on the Indian Ocean island Mauritius (Reuters/Jacky Naegelen). People walk on the rock at the Trou aux Biches beach on the Indian Ocean island Mauritius (Reuters/Jacky Naegelen).

As Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy (CSMD) heads into spring break, here is what we will be reading.

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