The Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) Conference 2020 is an annual event with a broad focus on issues that are relevant for the economic development in Africa. Despite being cancelled this year following the COVID-19 outbreak, the conference has gone virtual and is being recreated on Twitter with the hashtag #DIYCSAE.

The opening panel (recorded on zoom) focused on issues of tax policy and collection in Africa, including a discussion of how research in this area can have a greater positive impact. Chaired by CSAE’s Stefan Dercon, the panel featured Dina Pomeranz (Department of Economics at the University of Zurich), Abebe Shimeles (African Economic Research Consortium) and ICTD Research Director Dr Wilson Prichard.

Dr Prichard spoke about what research has revealed about tax systems in Africa so far, making five key points:

  1. There has been real progress in strengthening tax systems, but there is also much that has not worked as well as expected.
  2. These shortfalls include the under-taxation of high net worth individuals, inconsistencies of VAT paper trails, the complexity of taxing multinational companies, and the difficulties of IT reform within tax administrations, to name a few.
  3. These are often rooted in a combination of politics and Western models of taxation that are poorly suited to local realities in low-income countries.
  4. Translating research into practice is a challenge, but there is much more research can do to investigate targeted solutions and highlight them in the policy realm.
  5. Researchers need to think more concretely about not only about raising additional revenue, but also ensuring it is translated into real benefits for taxpayers.

Watch the full panel discussion:

For more on the conference, visit the website or follow the discussion on Twitter with the hashtags #DIYCSAE and #OxCSAE2020.