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Africa is the world’s second fastest-growing economy after East Asia, and yet the
continent is also home to the largest share of people living in extreme poverty, in
countries with poor foundations for human development. Income inequality is rising, while underemployment and the lack of economic opportunities push some individuals to join criminal groups, gangs or rebel movements, reinforcing the links between inequality, criminal activity and violence.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows has estimated that illicit financial flows (IFFs) from Africa could amount to as much as USD 50 billion (US dollars) per year. Although the figures on IFFs are heavily disputed, current analyses agree that IFFs exceed the amount of ODA provided to Africa.

Previous research has largely focused on capturing the volumes and sources of IFFs, and on identifying the commercial practices that contribute to them such as trade misinvoicing, tax evasion and avoidance, and transfer pricing.

This publication, written by a team from the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime for the OECD, takes a different approach by seeking to build the evidence basis on criminal and illicit economies, the IFFs these economies generate, and their impact on development.

The report reviews diverse forms of economies prevalent in West Africa that are usually seen as criminal or illicit, organising them through a typology according
to a range of illegal activities, from natural resource crimes to illicit trade in normally legal goods.

This analysis leads to the following conclusions:

  • criminal and illicit economies produce IFFs that undermine country capacities to finance their development;
  • criminal economies and IFFs are a potent negative force that contribute to the degradation of livelihoods and ecosystems, undermine institutions, reinforce clientelist politics and enable impunity, in different ways across the region’s countries.

Economy of Illicit Trade West Africa, 2018

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Tuesday Reitano

Tuesday Reitano is Deputy Director at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime and a senior research advisor at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, where she leads the ENACT programme on behalf of the GI.

Tuesday was formerly the director of CT MORSE, an independent policy and monitoring unit for the EU’s programmes in counter-terrorism, and for 12 years was a policy specialist in the UN System, including with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Development Group (UNDG) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

In this time, she has amassed a wealth of experience in fragile states and development working both with states, civil society and at the community level to strengthen resilience to transnational threats, promote sustainable development and the rule of law. Tuesday has authored a number of policy orientated and academic reports with leading institutions such as the UN, World Bank and OECD on topics ranging from organized crime’s evolution and impact in Africa, on human smuggling, illicit financial flows, and the nexus between crime, terrorism, security and development.

Tuesday is the lead author of a forthcoming OECD flagship publication: Illicit Financial Flows: Criminal Economies in West Africa, co-author of Migrant, Refugee; Smuggler, Saviour, a book published in 2016 by Hurst on the role of smugglers in Europe’s migration crisis, and the editor of Militarised Responses to Organised Crime: War on Crime, published by Palgrave in 2017.

She holds three Masters Degrees in Business Administration (MBA), Public Administration (MPA) and an MSc in Security, Conflict and International Development (MSc). Tuesday is based in Geneva, Switzerland, with her family.

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Mark Shaw

Mark is the Director of the Global Initiative, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Cape Town, and Senior Associate of the LSE International Drug Policy Unit, (LSE US Centre).

He was previously the National Research Foundation Professor of Justice and Security at the University of Cape Town, Department of Criminology.   Prior to joining UCT, Mark was a Director at a boutique consulting firm specialising in fragile states and transnational threats.  Mark lead projects and provided technical assistance to national governments, bilateral donors and international organisations in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, West Africa, the Sahel and Southern Africa, on security sector and criminal justice reform, and countering transnational threats.

Mark worked for ten years at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), including as Inter-regional Advisor, Chief of the Criminal Justice Reform Unit and with the Global Programme against Transnational Organised Crime, with extensive field work.  A South African national, before joining the UN, Mark held a number of positions in government and civil society where he worked on issues of public safety and urban violence in the post-apartheid transition.  He holds a PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and has published widely on organised crime, security and justice reform issues.


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Marcena Hunter

Marcena is Senior Research Analyst at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, which she has been with since 2012. Marcena provides research for a number of Global Initiatives projects, analysing a diverse range of organized crime flows, including illicit financial flows, and developing responses. While her work covers a wide scope of material and geographic spread, her current work has focused on development responses to organized crime and the West Africa region. Marcena previously worked with STATT, a boutique global consulting firm, where she analysed migration flows and guided security sector and criminal justice reform. Her past work also includes projects improving access to justice, analysing gender issues, and supporting the Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking at the UNODC. Marcena has a JD from Washington and Lee University, and a BA in Political Science from the University of Denver. She is currently based in Queensland, Australia.

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Karl Lallerstedt

Karl leads the Global Initiative Programme on Illicit Trade, Financial and Economic Crime. He is particularly interested in the illicit trade in products that replace those that are generally licit (such as counterfeit goods and contraband excise goods).

Karl is also the co-founder of Black Market Watch ( and member of the OECD Task Force on Charting Illicit Trade.  Formerly Karl was the anti-illicit trade strategy director at a leading multinational corporation, steering committee member of the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP), and a political and economic analyst for the Department of State, Oxford Analytica and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

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Rob McCusker

Rob McCusker is a Visiting Professor in Transnational Crime at Universiti Teknologi MARA in Malaysia and was the former Director of the Centre for Fraud and Financial Crime and Reader in Fraud and Financial Crime within the School of Social Sciences, Business and Law at Teesside University and the former Transnational Crime Analyst for the Australian Institute of Criminology, Australia’s leading statutorily created crime research body which falls within the Minister for Justice’s portfolio. Within Australia, Rob worked with a number of agencies including the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian High Tech Crime Centre and the Office of National Assessments on a range of transnational crime issues. Outside of Australia, Rob has worked with the Specialist Crime Directorate of the Metropolitan Police, the Council of Europe, APEC, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US State Department. Overall, Rob has worked with a range of Government, law enforcement, intelligence and business organisations in a number of jurisdictions including the UK, USA, Thailand, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Rob was a designated ‘expert’ in economic crime and money laundering at the 2005, 2010 and 2015 United Nations Congresses on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

In relation to anti-money laundering and counter terrorist finance, Rob was seconded for two years to the Attorney-General’s Department as an adviser on the development and implementation of its Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing Act 2006 and formed part of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing Project Team involved in a four year research programme for AUSTRAC (Australia’s Financial Intelligence Unit) on best practice in anti-money laundering efforts globally. He was also a member of the Australian Government Inter -Departmental Committee on the establishment, role and operation of the Anti-Money Laundering Assessment Team which supports the creation and operation of Financial Intelligence Units in the Pacific Islands. More recently, he was consultant to, and contributing author for, the European Commission for its ‘Study for an Impact Assessment for a Proposal for a Directive to on the Criminalisation of Money Laundering’.

In relation to corruption, Rob was until recently the Research and Evaluation Consultant for the UN Development Programme in relation to a global assessment of the impact of the UN Convention against Corruption. He undertook a review for the Australian Attorney-General’s Department on anti-corruption strategies in the Asia-Pacific region and was a member of Panel Two (‘The Foreign Bribery Offence and Principles of Prosecution –Australian Public Authorities’) in connection with an OECD on-site evaluation of the Australian Government’s compliance with the OECD Foreign Bribery Convention. Rob is a Member of the Advisory Board of the Rutgers Institute on Anti- Corruption Studies, Rutgers University, New York, and has also been engaged by the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies in London to advise (in relation to financial regulation as part of an anti-corruption toolkit) delegates from developed and developing nations on developing and enhancing their countries’ anti-corruption strategies. Countries advised thus far include Gambia, Somalia, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Serbia, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

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