Billions of Dollars in Gold Flows Illegally Out of Africa Each Year – Report Says


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A recent report has revealed that billions of dollars’ worth of gold is smuggled out of Africa each year, primarily ending up in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The gold, valued at over $30 billion in 2022, is then refined and sold worldwide, according to a report published on Thursday, May 30, by Swissaid, a Swiss aid and development group.

The report highlights that over 435 metric tons of gold were illegally exported from Africa last year. The primary destinations for this illicit gold were the UAE, Turkey, and Switzerland.

Transparency and Accountability

The authors of the report emphasized the need for increased transparency in the African gold trade and urged industry players to ensure more traceable and responsible supply chains. Yvan Schulz, one of the authors, expressed hope that this transparency would improve the living conditions of local populations and the working conditions of artisanal miners throughout Africa.

The report uncovered that between 32% and 41% of gold produced in Africa was not declared. In 2022, Ghana emerged as the largest gold producer in Africa, followed by Mali and South Africa.

Gold Smuggling to the UAE

Between 2012 and 2022, approximately 2,569 metric tons of gold, worth around $115 billion, were smuggled to the UAE. The gap between UAE imports and exports from African countries has widened over the years, indicating an increase in gold smuggling over the past decade. For instance, this gap grew from 234 metric tons in 2020 to 405 metric tons in 2022.

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An official from the UAE government’s media office stated that the country has taken significant steps to address concerns about gold smuggling. The official noted the continued growth of the UAE’s gold market reflects the international community’s confidence in its processes. “The UAE remains steadfast in its efforts to combat gold smuggling and ensure the highest standards of transparency and accountability within the gold and precious metals sector,” the official said.

Switzerland’s Involvement

Switzerland, another major buyer of African gold, imported about 21 metric tons of undeclared gold from Africa in 2022. The actual figure could be higher if African gold imported through third countries is considered. The report noted that once gold is refined, it becomes virtually impossible to trace its final destination. Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs spokesperson, Fabian Maienfisch, stated that Switzerland is committed to improving the traceability of commodity flows, the transparency of statistics, and the quality of controls.billions of dollars

Recommendations and Measures

The report compared export data from African countries with import data from non-African countries and made several recommendations. It called on African states to formalize artisanal and small-scale mining and to strengthen border controls. It also urged non-African states to publish the identity of the countries of origin and dispatch of imported gold and to collaborate with authorities to identify illicit gold flows.

In conclusion, the report by Swissaid sheds light on the significant issue of gold smuggling out of Africa and calls for concerted efforts from both African and non-African states to address this problem, ensuring a more transparent and accountable gold trade.


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