Senegal officially launched its participation in the Opening Extractives programme on 30 June. The hybrid event, which was attended by nearly 80 in-person and online participants, consolidated Senegal's long-standing commitment to beneficial ownership transparency.
To strengthen its operational framework to fight financial crime and fulfil international commitments, particularly those arising from EITI implementation, Senegal adopted a decree in 2020 which established a public register of beneficial owners of extractive companies and their subcontractors. Despite considerable efforts to make the registry operational, which included the development of declaration forms, the training of clerks and a recent economy-wide law requiring legal entities to provide information on their beneficial owners to the tax authorities, effective implementation remains complex and requires further technical assistance. This is the rationale that lies behind the inclusion of support for the Ministry of Justice and Senegal EITI in the Opening Extractives programme.
The objective of the launch event was to provide a better understanding of Opening Extractives and to ensure a high level of involvement and ownership from stakeholders. The event began with an opening ceremony and speeches from the Minister of Justice, the Chair of the EITI Senegal National Committee, as well as high-level representatives from the Ministries of Mines and Petroleum.
The Minister of Justice recalled that the reforms towards beneficial ownership transparency are part of the broader framework of Senegal's national priorities: "At a time when the high authorities are resolutely committed to the fight against corruption, economic crimes such as money laundering, tax evasion, and illicit financial flows, which are real scourges that jeopardise economic health and the social structure and threaten the well-being of the population, the identification of beneficial owners has become one of the main issues in the governance of the extractive industries," he said. He specified that the disclosure and publication of information on beneficial owners must be done in the public interest and in compliance with regulations on the protection of the privacy of taxpayers.
Awa Marie Coll-Seck recalled the commitment made in 2018 by President Macky Sall to establish a register of beneficial owners of extractive companies, during the Africa EITI Conference on Beneficial Ownership in Dakar, and its realisation through the adoption of the 2020 decree and the 2021 ministerial order. She underlined the progress made in actual beneficial ownership declarations, which have increased in a few months to more than one hundred. She mentioned the findings of the UNCTAD 2020 report on economic development in Africa, "Illicit Financial Flows and Sustainable Development in Africa," which reveals that illicit financial flows linked to the extractive sector amount to at least 40 billion dollars per year on the continent. The Minister deplored these "substantial revenues that escape our states instead of ensuring their socio-economic development.”
The open panel discussion during the launch gave a platform for participants to discuss on how the programme can be effective for beneficial ownership transparency in the country. Based on the presentation of the scoping study commissioned by Open Ownership, participants discussed issues such as thresholds, public accessibility of the register, and the scope of the obligation to report beneficial owners throughout the economy.
As Senegal prepares to become a major gas producer, in a context marked by the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the evolution of global energy demand, revenues from the extractive sector appear more essential than ever. Senegal is the first francophone country to implement the Opening Extractives programme and is expected to play a pioneering role and to spread its experience of the programme in the Francophone Africa region. The next step in the Opening Extractives journey, will be the development by Senegal of an activity plan to meet its priorities under the programme.