Do tax havens contribute to African poverty?

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I think you know my answer to that, but I wasn't asking. Reuters were. As they put it:

Tax havens have been blamed (and lauded in some quarters) for many things. But a new book that is causing quite a stir says they are a key reason behind African poverty and underdevelopment.

“Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World” by Nicholas Shaxson argues among other things that they are “deep drains of development.”


“Poverty in Africa cannot be understood without understanding the role of offshore. The world’s worst war for years has been the civil conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is tied in with the wholesale looting of its mineral resources via tax havens,” he writes.

As they add:

The broad brush — and this is a simplication of the overall argument — is that tax havens enable the flight of scarce capital from Africa to other regions, stunting the continent’s ability to develop on a range of fronts. Such havens inclue not only tropical destinations like the Cayman Islands but the City of London and the U.S. state of Delaware.

And global efforts to curtail them, a subject we have written on before, have been largely ineffective. Resource-rich countries are also, for a range of reasons, more prone to capital outflows to tax havens and other offshore institutions. And Africa is rich in resources.

Shaxson’s work is in many ways a counter-argument to the “aid is bad” consensus that is taking hold in some quarters.

A counter-argument that has been sorely needed.

Warmly endorsed and now published in USA too.