Africa training initiative sets out to track where the money goes

by TrustLaw | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 1 November 2010 15:21 GMT
The Thomson Reuters Foundation is teaching journalists from Africa to "follow the money"

Follow the money – that is the theme of a series of training workshops starting in November for journalists from African countries, for which the Thomson Reuters Foundation has joined forces with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

About 100 journalists, spread over eight courses in different African locations in the course of the next year, will receive intensive training to hone their financial reporting and analytical skills.

It is the first time the Thomson Reuters Foundation has teamed up directly with a national development aid agency to deliver this kind of training, although it has previously worked with multilateral organisations and local partners to run courses aimed at strengthening financial journalism in Africa.

The five-day courses are due to kick off in Dakar on 29 November, followed by Nairobi on 6 December.

A special angle in this new series of workshops is the issue of money being illicitly siphoned out of poor countries, often into tax havens. By its nature this is a highly sensitive topic, and a challenge for journalists to uncover.

NORAD’s experts, however, believe it is time African media took a closer interest and raised public awareness about capital flight, which undermines developing countries’ ability to generate their own revenue and wean them off aid.

Estimates of just how much capital is secreted out of Africa vary, but Fredrik Eriksson, senior NORAD anti-corruption adviser, said it could run into hundreds of millions of dollars, outweighing annual aid to Africa by a factor of as much as eight to one.

“It doesn’t make much sense if we pour money in, when it’s leaking out,” he said. Norway spends 1 per cent of its gross national income on foreign assistance, putting it among the top three western donors alongside Sweden and Luxembourg in proportional terms.

NORAD’s decision to sponsor financial journalism training is part of the follow-up from a Norwegian government commission report last year on capital flight from developing countries. Eriksson said the training programme could play a pivotal role in spreading debate about the problem and what could be done to tackle it.

“There’s almost no possibility of achieving any sort of progress unless we get the message across,” he said.

To apply for the the Dakar and Nairobi courses please go to the following links:

Dakar: http://www.reuterslink.org/courses/financeNORAD_Nov10.htm

Nairobi: http://www.reuterslink.org/courses/financeNORAD_Dec10.htm

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