Remarks by Under Secretary of the Treasury Brian Nelson to the Media on his Visit to Mogadishu
As Prepared for Delivery
Good afternoon – It’s nice to be here in Mogadishu with you all.
I’m here today on my second trip to Africa, where I’ve been meeting with my Somalia and Kenya counterparts to deepen our areas of cooperation while expanding our partnership to better meet the shared challenges and opportunities in front of us.
As Secretary Yellen said during her travel to the continent earlier this year, Africa will shape the future of the global economy. Secretary Yellen’s travel, and with this as my second trip to the continent, demonstrates the U.S. Treasury’s ongoing commitment to deepen our ties and financial connections across the continent.
A core focus of my meetings in Mogadishu and Nairobi has been discussing how we can bolster our partnership to combat terrorist financing in the region. To that end, later today, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will designate a prominent terrorist financier to support Somalia and Kenya’s efforts to disrupt terrorist financing. I spoke with Somali authorities today on how we can work together to amplify the impact of this and future actions targeting terrorist actors in Somalia.
Treasury’s sanctions have the most impact when they are done multilaterally with our partners. I spoke with Somali authorities at the highest level to commit to sharing information early and often to facilitate Somalia’s investigations into and enforcement actions against suspected terrorist financiers and facilitators.
In my meetings with President Sheikh Mohamud and others, we discussed three main topics. First: progress on building capacity to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. Second: progress to advance critical reforms that will allow Somalia to put revenue to use developing its economy rather than servicing debt. And third: a new strategy from our department on addressing financial de-risking, so we can ease the flow of remittances and humanitarian aid from diaspora communities living and working in the United States. Improving Somalia’s controls to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, proliferation financing, and sanctions evasion risks can instill confidence within the U.S. banking sector that Somalia’s financial sector is supervised and regulated in accordance with international and domestic standards.
Ultimately it is these systemic reforms which will equip authorities and the private sector with tools to protect Somalia’s financial sector from abuse by terrorist financiers, corrupt actors, and other criminals. Authorities at the highest level spoke of their commitment to prioritizing the whole of government effort needed to advance these reforms.
But I was not just here for government meetings. I spoke with representatives from Somalia’s banking and mobile money services sectors. As frontline industries, these private sector actors play a crucial role in fighting money laundering and terrorist financing, including by working with local authorities. Treasury works closely with our own financial institutions to share information on suspected illicit activities and refine the implementation of AML/CFT regulations.
Before I get to questions, let me also address the spillover effects of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine: it continues to disproportionately hurt countries in Africa, and the Horn of Africa is facing massive food insecurity and famine. Treasury has taken unprecedented steps to ensure food and humanitarian-related transactions can flow unimpeded.
Since the very beginning, this has meant we have always had exemptions from our Russia’s sanctions for food, agriculture, and humanitarian transactions.
This is just an overview of my priorities on this trip, as well as more broadly, to deepen partnerships across Africa to build financial connections, respond to the pressing challenges in the region, and identify opportunities to capitalize on the entrepreneurial dynamism in this region and across the continent. With that, I’m happy to take your questions.