The African Tax Institute (ATI), located in the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, recently launched a book called Taxing Africa: Coercion, Reform and Development at UP’s Hatfield Campus. Taxing Africa is an accessible and comprehensive introduction to the crucial debates around taxation and development in Africa.
The book was written by Mick Moore (Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies and CEO of the International Centre for Tax and Development), Wilson Prichard (Associate Professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs and in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies and Research Director at the International Centre for Tax and Development) and Odd-Helge Fjeldstad (Research Professor at Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen, Norway, Extraordinary Professor at the African Tax Institute, and Senior Fellow at the International Centre for Tax and Development).
According to Professor Riël Franzsen, Director of the ATI, “Taxation, as a cornerstone of good governance and state-building, is firmly on the agenda in Africa.” The book has already been launched in London, Oslo, Washington, DC, and Hargeisa in Somaliland. It will also be launched in other African cities, including Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. This book was launched at the university because Prof Fjeldstad is an extraordinary professor in the ATI at UP and because all three authors are involved in the International Centre for Tax and Development (ICTD). The ATI has been collaborating with the ICTD for some time, especially with regard to property taxation in Africa.
Taxing Africa offers a thought-provoking analysis on different aspects of the continent’s tax regimes, displaying the crucial role such arrangements play in attempts to create social justice and economic advancement. From tax evasion by multinational corporations and African elites, to how ordinary people navigate complex webs of ‘informal’ local taxation, the book examines the potential for reform, and how space might be created for enabling locally led strategies.
Attendees at the launch including UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Principal for Research and Postgraduate Education Professor Stephanie Burton, and the Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Professor Elsabé Loots.
Attendees had a chance to interact with two of the authors, Prof Fjeldstad and Prof Moore. Three panellists – Professor Annet Oguttu (Department of Taxation and ATI), Professor Sijbren Cnossen (Extraordinary Professor at the ATI) and Mr Cecil Morden (Extraordinary Lecturer in the ATI) – provided further insights on the book and the broader tax environment in Africa.
The book has already been endorsed by some high-profile experts in the field. “The authors applied their extensive practical experience and analytical acumen to provide a level-headed and accessible account of the key tax challenges (and opportunities) that the continent faces – as well as suggesting ways ahead,” is the assessment of Michael Keen, Deputy Director of the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department.
Trevor Manuel, former South African Finance Minister, writes that, “Taxation remains at the heart of the expression of sovereignty. Too many postcolonial states have ignored this function and consequently lost the ability to shape policy. Taxing Africa refocuses the debate, one as much about the quality of democracy as it is about the rates of taxation.’’
“Taxing Africa emphasizes the importance of history, culture and politics in shaping taxation, and offers new insight into how to approach reform,” writes Roy Bahl, founding dean of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at the Georgia State University and also an Extraordinary Professor at the ATI. “If you are working on African fiscal affairs, this book belongs on your shelf.’’