Foundation supports newsrooms to ask: is Cape Verde a tax haven in the making?

Wednesday, 20 January 2016 11:37 GMT

A reporter broadcasts from the Radio Morabeza studio in Cape Verde. Photo: Nuno Andrade Ferreira

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In 2011, the government of Cape Verde - a small nation comprising a group of islands off West Africa - ratified a policy that aimed to make it more attractive for international companies to do business there. Until now the policy has attracted little attention or in-depth reporting within Cape Verde.

However, with help from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, two local news organisations have investigated the policy's implications and produced the country's first in-depth coverage of how Cape Verde could be on its way to becoming a tax haven.

This is all part of the Foundation's pan-African programme Wealth of Nations, funded by Norad, which works with African media to investigate how African economies lose large amounts of money - and with it, tax revenue - when funds are moved out of the country. These funds are often moved to countries with favourable tax laws, commonly referred to as tax havens.

It's also an example of a new approach that the Foundation has piloted and refined over the last year, in which expert journalists work with a team of reporters in a newsroom for an intensive period of training and mentoring, all of which is focussed around producing stories and investigations on a particular topic.

The Foundation sent former Reuters journalist Zoe Eisenstein to work in the newsroom of Radio Morabeza, a radio station based on the island of Sao Vicente. Radio Morabeza, in turn, engaged journalists working for the weekly publication Expresso das Ilhas - the two newsrooms have the same ownership and regularly share resources.

Zoe worked with the team to look at Cape Verde's policy to create an international business centre, which is designed to provide incentives to companies investing in the country. The policy has been approved but not yet implemented. And through working on these stories, she provided tailored training on business reporting, interviewing, and more.

By the end of Zoe's week in Cape Verde, the coverage amounted to two radio programmes - each featuring multiple items and interviews - and four print stories, including an analysis of the policy and explainer articles on tax havens and international efforts to address them (all stories in Portuguese). In the following week, Expresso das Ilhas did an interview with a senior opposition figure who was reacting to their coverage.

Editor of Radio Morabeza, Nuno Andrade Ferreira, said: "The collaboration was very important. Firstly, because we could offer our team a chance to have high-level training. Also, because it was a way to empower journalists about a complex but relevant subject.

"The issue of illicit financial flows is relevant. Cape Verde has all the characteristics to be transformed into a place that could be used for less lawful transactions. That's why it's so important that journalists are able to identify these situations. Until now, we have been the only ones to cover the international business centre in depth, and to warn about the potential risks."

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