African Affairs 00/00, 1-26

Individuals in low-income countries often contribute significantly to financing local public goods through informal taxation. However, there is limited understanding of how informal revenue generation relates to formal tax and governing institutions. We explore the relationship between informal revenue generation, public finance, and the state in the Gedo region in south-central Somalia, relying on original data from surveys with 2,300 households and 117 community leaders. Our evidence shows that informal revenue generation by non-armed actors in Gedo is prevalent, with informal payments deeply embedded within clan-based and Islamic institutions and rooted in a long history of decentralized political authority and self-reliance in the region. We argue that in such a context, rather than explaining how or why things ‘work’ outside of the state, it may be more relevant and valuable to consider decentralized non-state public authority as the default referent, with a need only to explain the puzzle of pockets of state effectiveness. Governance largely operates outside the state, with citizens playing a pivotal role in directly financing local governance institutions and public goods provision. These findings have important implications for our understanding of statehood and public finance in contexts of weak formal institutions.


Vanessa van den Boogaard

Vanessa van den Boogaard is a Research Fellow at the ICTD and a Senior Research Associate at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. She completed her PhD thesis on informal revenue generation and statebuilding in Sierra Leone, and has ongoing research on the topic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Vanessa leads the ICTD’s new programme on civil society engagement in tax reform and co-leads the research programme on informal taxation.

Fabrizio Santoro

Fabrizio is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, and the Research Lead for the second component of the ICTD's DIGITAX Research Programme. His main research interests relate to governance, public finance, and taxation, with a strong focus on impact evaluation methodologies and statistical analysis. He holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Sussex.