Training opportunities on taxation and development are surprisingly rare, given the increasing attention that taxation is attracting internationally. Several new donors are entering this field, though many officials still have limited experience in the area. With greater demand for evidence on what works to improve taxation in Africa, there is an increasing need for qualified professionals and researchers.
The ICTD started a capacity building program in 2015. To make sure we build on collaborative partnerships rather than duplicate efforts, we have partnered with the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) since the beginning. ICTD has been a key player in the establishment of ATAF’s African Tax Researchers’ Network (ATRN). The ATRN has five ICTD researchers on its scientific committee, and all of ICTD’s capacity building activities, are carried out in partnership with ATAF and ATRN.
Flagship Course on Tax and Development
The flagship training is the Tax and Development Short Course, held for the first time in Brighton (UK) in January 2015, and a second time in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in February 2016. The course is targeted at non-specialists, who are seeking to get a broad view of the main issues on taxation. Participants are from a range of backgrounds including; aid and government agencies, civil society, tax administrations, research organisations and the media.
Tax and Development Short Course (2015) participants
The sessions range from international tax to sub-national financing, and from tax compliance to the role of taxation in the broader development process. These courses have had a great impact, through high level officials implementing some of the ideas developed during the Short Course in their own organisations. In the words of our participants:
“Writing about tax issues is not usually an easy assignment, and without proper knowledge, one can make factual errors. After the ICTD training, my knowledge of tax greatly improved, and I have written several stories, ranging from taxation to trade to natural resources. These have been published in different newspapers in Uganda. I also recently got a position as a Senior Reporter at East African Business Week, a large East African newspaper, where I have an even bigger platform to write about tax issues, especially targeting the East African region.” Joseph Olanyo – Ugandan Journalist. (2015 Tax Short Course participant and scholarship recipient)
“The training has been very helpful to me in many ways. Upon my return from the course, I successfully pushed for the establishment of an international transactions unit within the SRA. Also, my renewed understanding of the social contract aspect of tax, has enabled me (and my colleagues) to engage better with our politicians, to solicit their cooperation in the collection of taxes. When we were challenged by our politicians, the lessons from this course came in handy, to enable me remain calm and respond professionally to the issues they raised, and providing some education on tax in the process.” Nompumelelo Dlamini – Commissioner of Domestic Taxes, Swaziland Revenue Authority. (2015 Tax Short Course participant)
Scholarship beneficiaries’ enthusiasm for ICTD support
To facilitate participation of African independent researchers and other professionals with limited access to funding, we provided a limited number of scholarships in each edition of the course. These scholarships were so popular, that for each place we received up to 30 applications. Demand for the course was extremely high.
“I left Addis Ababa with tangible insights on taxation issues, which I previously didn’t possess. I particularly liked the courses on International taxation, taxation of the extractives and property taxation. The outlay of tax within a political economic context was also very illuminating. Going forward, in the short run, I would like to carry out research revolving around taxation of the informal sector, and I will be requesting further guidance from the ICTD on this matter.” Alex Njeru, Programme Director at the Eastern Africa Policy Centre. (2016 Tax Short Course participant and scholarship recipient)
Strengthening research capacity in Africa
A separate ICTD training, the Research Methods and Dissemination Workshop, was aimed specifically to researchers who are already working on tax but are in need to sharpen up their methods.
Research Methods and Dissemination Workshop participants
The course attracted junior and mid-career researchers from 15 different African countries, who went through a training to strengthen their research capacity and enable them publish and communicate their key research findings to broader policy audiences. The training was a real success, as reported by the participants:
"I really learned a lot from this workshop and I’ll work hard to incorporate the inputs.” Haleokoe Jopo – Lesotho Revenue Authority
“I really appreciate the effort that ATAF and the ICTD put in to make the workshop very interesting and memorable. The experience was very great.” John Ashilere – Federal Inland Revenue Service of Nigeria
“It is true that after the training we had in Addis, our research will be far better than before.” Cynthia Mutasah – Zimbabwe Revenue Authority
Continued commitment to “hands on” capacity building
These training events add to ICTD’s previous commitment on “hands-on” capacity building through collaborative research projects. By encouraging collaborations between African and international researchers, ICTD has catalysed a great deal of mutual learning in the past five years.
Several African researchers have accessed international opportunities for training and publishing their research, thanks to this type of collaboration. Many have significantly raised their profile after working on ICTD projects.
One ICTD researcher, Samuel Jibao has established his own research centre, the Centre for Economic Research and Capacity Building (CERCB) in Sierra Leone, while another, Michel Jorratt, was appointed the Director of the Chilean Internal Revenue Service in 2014.