Africa Hemorrhaging Billions Yearly in Illegal Gold Exports, Study Finds

Massive amounts of gold, worth billions of dollars, are illegally smuggled out of Africa annually, with most of it ending up in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Once in the UAE, the smuggled gold is refined and sold globally, according to a report released on May 30th.

The report by the Swiss aid group Swissaid estimates that over $30 billion worth of gold, equating to more than 435 metric tons, was smuggled from Africa in 2022 alone. The primary destinations were the UAE, Turkey, and Switzerland. The report aims to increase transparency in the African gold trade and pressure industry players to improve traceability and responsibility in their supply chains to better conditions for local populations and artisanal miners.

Between 32-41% of gold produced in Africa was undeclared in 2022, with Ghana being the largest producer followed by Mali and South Africa. The report found a widening gap between UAE gold imports from Africa and its exports to other nations over the past decade, suggesting increased smuggling – rising from 234 metric tons in 2020 to 405 in 2022.

Switzerland imported around 21 metric tons of undeclared African gold in 2022, though the real figure is likely much higher accounting for gold passing through third countries before reaching Switzerland, where tracing its African origins becomes virtually impossible after refining.

The UAE government asserts it has taken significant steps to address gold smuggling concerns, stating the growth of its gold market reflects international confidence in its processes to combat illegal activities and ensure transparency and accountability. Switzerland also claims commitment to improving traceability, transparency, and control quality regarding commodity flows.