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Capital Flight from Sub-Saharan African Countries: Updated Estimates, 1970 - 2010
PERI Working Papers (2012)
  • James K Boyce, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
  • Léonce Ndikumana

The performance of Sub-Saharan African economies over the past decade has inspired optimism on the region’s prospects. But the region still faces major development challenges, and it is now clear that the majority of its countries will not achieve key millennium development goals.

A key constraint to SSA’s growth and development is the shortage of financing. At the same time, the sub-region is a source of large-scale capital flight, which escalated during last decade even as the region experienced growth acceleration. The group of 33 SSA countries covered by this report has lost a total of $814 billion dollars from 1970 to 2010. Boyce and Ndikumana compare this to the level of development aid and foreign direct investment received by these countries. Assuming that flight capital could have earned the modest interest rate measured by the short-term U.S. Treasury Bill rate, they find that the accumulated stock of capital flight far exceeds the external liabilities of this group of countries, making the region a “net creditor” to the rest of the world.

This report provides updated estimates of capital flight for 33 SSA countries from 1970 to 2010. It describes the methodology used to estimate capital flight and highlights important methodological differences with other existing studies. The report presents key results on capital flight both in absolute terms and in comparison to other capital flows, especially debt, aid, and foreign direct investment, as well as in relation to the size of the economy (as percentage of GDP and in per capita terms). The report stresses the urgency of efforts to stem capital flight and repatriate stolen assets as a part of the broader goals of scaling up development financing, combating corruption, and improving transparency in the global financial system.

Publication Date
October 22, 2012
Citation Information
James K Boyce and Léonce Ndikumana. "Capital Flight from Sub-Saharan African Countries: Updated Estimates, 1970 - 2010" PERI Working Papers (2012)
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