The pure gold ore found in the mine is in the hands of men.

Between 72% and 80% of Africa’s total artisanal gold production is often undeclared for export, a new study has found. A significant portion of this gold is said to often end up in major gold-importing countries, such as the United Arab Emirates. According to a new study by Schulz and Ummel, Switzerland has a unique opportunity to positively influence the global gold trade.

Smuggling of Africa-Produced Gold Doubled Between 2012 and 2022
According to a new study by Swissaid, between 321 and 474 tons of artisanal gold are produced annually in Africa without being declared. This equates to between 72% and 80% of the total artisanal gold production on the continent. Additionally, the study found that the smuggling of Africa-produced gold doubled over the 10 years between 2012 and 2022.

In a report on the study’s findings, Swissaid—a group committed to building a world free of hunger— said the study aims to raise awareness about the gold trade from extraction to delivery in major refining centres like Switzerland. Co-author Yvan Schulz emphasizes that shedding light on this issue is crucial for holding both governments and the gold industry accountable.

“Shedding light on the African gold trade is essential if governments and the industry are to face up to their responsibilities,” Schulz said.

As explained in Swissaid’s blog post on May 30, one of the key findings of their study is the uncertainty surrounding the origin of gold delivered to major importers such as India, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Switzerland, for instance, imported 1,670 tonnes of gold from Dubai—a non-gold-producing region—between 2012 and 2022. Swissaid suggests that a significant portion of this gold may have originated from Africa.

Switzerland’s Unique Opportunity to Positively Influence the Global Gold Trade
However, Swiss laws classify gold imports from Dubai to Switzerland as Emirati, even if the gold was initially extracted from Africa. The UAE is thought to have imported 2596 tonnes of gold not declared for export from Africa.

Marc Ummel, head of the raw materials unit at Swissaid and co-author, highlights the problem: Switzerland’s classification allows gold associated with human rights violations or conflict to legally land in the European country.

In their report, both Schulz and Ummel argue that Switzerland has a unique opportunity to positively impact the global gold trade. They emphasize that the upcoming debate on the Customs Act in Parliament provides a chance to strengthen the legal framework and enhance raw material traceability.

The authors also propose recommendations for governments and the gold industry. Among these recommendations is a call for greater transparency and harmonization of taxes. Additionally, they advocate for national legislation that incorporates all OECD due diligence guidance for minerals from conflict-affected or high-risk areas.

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