Emerging global standards require countries to introduce measures that ensure transparency in beneficial ownership. These standards are set out in the G20 High-Level Principles on Beneficial Ownership. There are varying degrees of pressure that motivate countries to commit to this transparency agenda: some want to curb corrupt activities, including unseemly activities between corporates and politicians, thereby piercing the veil of corporate entities. Other countries aim to protect the integrity of the financial system from organised crime. Terrorist financing introduces its own exigencies for the banking sector and law enforcement authorities and, as such, banking regulations are enacted to curb abuse of the financial system. Yet others want to limit tax avoidance using legal entities and arrangements. For a country such as South Africa all these challenges are relevant. South Africa has been one of the forerunners in setting or adopting new regulatory measures in this area. It joined the Open Government Initiative in September 2011; became a member of the Financial Action Task Force in 2003; and adopted the G20 High-Level Principles on Beneficial Ownership in 2014. Reinforcing the country’s commitment at the domestic level, the cabinet formally adopted a process that would ensure South Africa fulfils its obligations to the G20 process. This paper sets out the landscape of these processes, taking a global, African and domestic view. Its main thrust is that the global standard-setting process should be sensitive to institutional differences across countries, and that countries participating in the global processes that are setting up these standards should approach the policy discussions on the basis of their own needs and capacities.
Author: Mzukisi Qobo