Illicit Financial Flows

The Economy of Illicit Trade in West Africa

image of Illicit Financial Flows

This report is a first step towards building a qualitative understanding of the way illicit or criminal activities interact with the economy, security and development of West African states. Going beyond a traditional analysis of illicit financial flows (IFFs), which typically emphasises the scale of monetary flows, the report examines the nature of thirteen overlapping, and oftentimes mutually reinforcing, criminal and illicit economies, with a view to identify their resulting financial flows and development linkages. In taking this approach, this report identifies the networks and drivers that allow these criminal economies to thrive, with a particular emphasis on the actors and incentives behind them. As a conclusion to this work, this report proposes a series of policy considerations to assist countries to prioritise and focus their responses to reduce the development impacts of IFFs. Resolving the problem of IFFs requires responding to underlying development challenges, and tackling all parts of the problem in source, transit and destination countries.

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Conclusions and recommendations

Based on an analysis of illicit financial flows (IFFs), this report establishes an analytical framework for understanding the harm that can be generated by criminal economies in order to guide and prioritise responses, both by the states in the region and the international community. These conclusions were drawn from an analysis of 13 forms of illicit or criminal economies operating in the region, organised by a typology distinguishing between illegal activities, the illicit exploitation or commodification of natural-resource assets, and the illicit trade in normally legal goods. This final chapter concludes with several observations and recommendations that draw on commonalities, but are also targeted at the development, finance and trade, and security and justice sectors. It draws on the report’s findings to determine a way for state and non-state actors to plan and co-ordinate their responses.

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