Working Paper 177

Increasing the slow pace of adoption of environmental taxes across low-income countries has become a significant priority among international financial institutions, multilateral development banks, and international donors. Yet little is known about the practical institutional, administrative, and political obstacles that have led to their slow implementation and how they can be made more appealing, especially across sub-Saharan Africa. Based on an extensive literature review and 16 in-depth interviews with ministries of finance, revenue authorities, and other government stakeholders across six African countries, this paper provides some evidence that will support action and research on this theme. While there are differences across the countries covered, a lack of data and analytical capacity to develop effective environmental taxes is a common theme, as well as the historical prioritisation of their revenue mobilisation capacity over their environmental impact. A great variety of government actors with a mandate over natural resources, often with competing policy priorities, coupled with a lack of coordination fora, has also impeded the harmonisation of the environmental charges they levy. These measures are also often perceived to be regressive and to pose an obstacle to industrial development, lowering their appeal, given that poverty reduction and employment creation are an overarching priority. Nonetheless, support for introducing specific environmental tax measures exists across the population and policymakers, especially if their revenue can be earmarked for environmental purposes.


Giovanni Occhiali

Dr Giovanni Occhiali is a Development Economist based at the Institute of Development Studies, where he works on a number of projects related to Tax Administration and Compliance, Tax and Governance and co-leads ICTD’s capacity building programme together with Dr Max Gallien. His research focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa, and outside of the field of taxation his main interests are energy economics and industrial policies. He holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham and prior to joining ICTD, he was a Researcher at the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei and an Overseas Development Institute Fellow at the National Revenue Authority of Sierra Leone.