Africa is losing money. Wealth of Nations works with the continent’s leading journalists and media organisations to expose those responsible for abusing tax and plundering assets.
Wealth of Nations is a three-year programme run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in collaboration with some of Africa's leading organisations promoting excellence in journalism.
The programme recognises that, despite the poverty seen across the continent, Africa is extremely wealthy in natural resources and human capital.
Wealth of Nations aims to form a strong, well-trained, independent media able to investigate and expose the financial manipulations that stop Africa from flourishing. The programme is running until the end of 2016 and is supported by a grant from Norway’s development agency, Norad.
Despite receiving large sums of money through foreign aid, remittances and other means, Africa loses larger amounts to illicit financial flows - money that pours out of economies through aggressive tax avoidance, corruption, smuggling, and other means. These illicit flows deprive African nations of vital tax revenues that could be spent on social programs including healthcare, education and basic infrastructure, and bleed countries of funds that could otherwise be invested in projects to create jobs and drive development. Illicit financial flows cost Africa an estimated US$50 billion annually.
But reporting on illicit flows is a major challenge for the media, requiring knowledge of complex financial agreements and access to carefully hidden information. This makes it a largely untold story.
As well as illicit financial flows, Wealth of Nations addresses a related problem concerning one of Africa's most important industries: petroleum. Oil and gas deposits are being exploited, or are soon to be exploited, in a number of African countries. But do governments secure the best deals with oil companies? And are oil revenues used in the best interests of citizens?
All too often these questions are not answered - and yet African media is in an excellent position to uncover this industry and explain to citizens how it affects their lives.
Wealth of Nations works with journalists and media in a variety of ways to address these problems, including:
- Skills development scheme for journalists – journalists with relevant experience take part in a tailored scheme, including training, mentoring and access to expertise, designed to give them the skills they need to report on illicit finance or oil
- Production of investigations – the above scheme is producing a growing cross-border network of specialised reporters. Experienced investigative journalists coordinate this network and drive the production of stories and investigations, to be published in local and regional media
- Investigations fund – in selected countries, and on selected topics, journalists will be able to apply for small grants to help them cover the costs of producing investigations
- Capacity development scheme for newsrooms – news organisations with existing capacity on the issues can apply to become ‘flagship’ newsrooms for the coverage of illicit financial flows and/or oil; they will receive bespoke training and support