East Africa Mulls Ways to End Illicit Gold Trade

Countries in the region are discussing the adoption of stringent traceability mechanisms for the gold industry to stamp out rampant smuggling across East and Central Africa to overseas buyers particularly in Asia.

Mining officials from the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) countries are in negotiations and are meeting next month to discuss the body's Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Strategy, which calls for harmonisation of gold export procedures including taxation and traceability and certification.

The ICGLR wants its member countries to adopt the strategy by mid-this year.

"It is disheartening to see so much gold being smuggled from the DR Congo through its neighbouring countries. While much attention over the past 10 years has focused on implementing traceability for tin, tungsten and tantalum (Three Ts), little has been done in terms of monitoring the flow of gold in the region," Ambeyi Ligabo, director of Democracy and Good Governance at ICGLR told The EastAfrican.

"We have agreed that it is crucial to implement the ICGLR guidelines on gold trade because the region's image has been smeared by smuggling. We hope they speed up the process so these guidelines are affected by March this year," said Mr Ligabo.

Rwanda's efforts to boost gold exports has been hampered by constant reports that the country serves as a route through which gold is smuggled out of the DR Congo to overseas buyers. The government is firm that all its gold is traded legitimately.

Last year, UN officials met with companies and government officials in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi and quizzed them about findings that gold flows illegally from DR Congo through their countries. They all denied knowledge of illicit gold trading noting that they have due diligence systems to detect and avoid smuggled gold in their chain supply.

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