A new report reveals that tens of billions of dollars in gold illegally flow out of Africa each year

Billions of dollars in gold are smuggled out of Africa annually, with a significant portion finding its way to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for refining and global distribution. This revelation comes from a report released on Thursday, shedding light on the extent of the illicit gold trade.

According to a report published by Swissaid, a Switzerland-based aid and development group, more than 435 metric tons of gold, equivalent to over $30 billion, were smuggled out of Africa in 2022. The primary recipients of African gold were the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Switzerland.

The authors of the report aim to enhance transparency in the trade of African gold and urge industry players to take further action in ensuring traceability of gold supplies and responsible supply chains.

Yvan Schulz, one of the authors of the report, expressed his hope that the initiatives mentioned in the report would lead to an improvement in the living conditions of local populations and the working conditions of artisanal miners across Africa.

According to the report, a significant portion of gold production in Africa, ranging from 32% to 41%, was not officially declared. The report also highlighted that Ghana emerged as the leading gold producer in Africa in 2022, with Mali and South Africa following closely behind.

According to the report, the UAE emerged as the top destination for smuggled gold, receiving a staggering 405 metric tons of undeclared output from Africa. Over a span of ten years, from 2012 to 2022, the total amount of smuggled gold reached a staggering 2,569 metric tons, with an estimated value of approximately $115 billion. The report also highlighted the widening gap between UAE imports and exports from African countries, indicating an alarming increase in the smuggling of gold out of Africa. For instance, the volume of smuggled gold rose from 234 metric tons in 2020 to 405 metric tons in 2022.

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According to the report, Switzerland, a significant purchaser of African gold, reportedly received around 21 metric tons of gold from Africa in 2022, without declaring it. The report also suggests that the actual amount could be even higher if the gold imported through intermediary countries was taken into account. However, once the gold is refined, it becomes extremely challenging to trace its path to its ultimate destination.

According to the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database, Switzerland emerges as the primary purchaser of gold from the UAE. The report highlights the challenges associated with sourcing gold from the UAE, ascertaining the origins of refined gold being particularly difficult.

An official from the UAE government’s media office assured that the country has made substantial efforts to tackle the issue of gold smuggling and the associated risks. The official, speaking on behalf of the country’s press office, emphasized that the continuous expansion of the UAE’s gold market is a testament to the international community’s trust in its procedures. However, the official did not disclose their identity.

According to the official, the UAE is committed to combating gold smuggling and maintaining transparency and accountability in the gold and precious metals sector.

The Swiss government acknowledges the difficulties in tracing the source of gold and has implemented measures to curb illegal flows.

“Switzerland remains dedicated to enhancing the traceability of commodity flows, improving the transparency of statistics, and ensuring the quality of controls,” expressed Fabian Maienfisch, spokesperson for Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

The report analyzed export data from African countries and import data from non-African countries to derive its findings. In addition to other calculations, the report recommended that African states should prioritize the formalization of artisanal and small-scale mining and strengthen border controls. It also urged non-African states to disclose information about the countries of origin and countries of dispatch of imported gold, and collaborate with authorities to detect and prevent illicit gold flows.

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