African kleptocratic rulers plunder natural resources and state budgets with the assistance of international and local business people.

For the first time, an investigation by African reporters in seven countries reveal how they operate. The African Investigative Publishing Collective’s team discovered, inter alia, the following:

  • In Kenya, politically connected business people were found to have made millions out of a failed Italian dam project that left poor farming communities in the Rift Valley to battle with dry and unsafe water sources.
  • In Liberia, money-savvy presidential associates-turned-ministers got their hands on newly printed banknotes from a Swedish manufacturer.
  • In Mozambique, a Chinese company at the root of devastating deforestation received new licenses from its friends in the state so that they could move on to deplete its seas of fish. 
  • The West African nation of Mali forks out double to triple the price for the bottles of mineral water it purchases through ‘anonymous middlemen’  from a Lebanese-Malian businessman associate, who in turns deposits much of his large income in Panama. 
  • In Nigeria, a region that could have prospered as a result of large-scale steel manufacturing, has been left abandoned and poor as ever because four decades of politicians, in successive governments, allowed it to be looted: each time by a different set of business associates. 
  • In Zambia, the Chalimbana river, a vital water artery for the capital city Lusaka, is being polluted and endangered by individuals in the political and military elite who, through business associates and a Chinese construction company, are turning the nature reserve area into a luxury suburb.

Whereas many of these business deals and transactions are legal in terms of the letter of the law -as are, for example, many of the off shore accounts unearthed by the Panama Papers- what we discovered sheds a spotlight on the corruption mechanisms within countries that are ruled by a political elite that concern themselves for a large part of the day with the challenge of how to access their country’s wealth for themselves. 

The AIPC team overcame many obstacles during this investigation, ranging from missing paper work in licensing and companies registries to murder of whistleblowers and death threats. We had to call in legal aid and the help of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists in two cases and use a pseudonym for the team member in Liberia.  A seventh country investigation, though finalised, is still being withheld because of judicial and other threats against the reporter in that country. It will be released as soon as the team is assured of his safety.

Download the report here.

The investigation was a project of the African Investigative Publishing Collective (AIPC) in partnership with Africa Uncensored. It was conducted in close collaboration with ZAM magazine, and Africa Uncensored and Finance Uncovered.

Participating journalists: David Dembélé (Mali), Purity Mukami (Kenya), Theophilus Abbah (Nigeria), Estacio Valoi (Mozambique), Charles Mafa and John Mukela (Zambia).