The Journal of Modern Africa Studies First View, pp. 1-13

As taxation has become a prominent issue on the international development policy agenda, a growing body of research has focused on taxpayer perceptions and experiences of taxation. A strand of this research emphasises the importance of the historical, political and social context of taxation. We position ourselves in line with this research as we pay attention to the emic definitions of taxation in Africa across contexts, languages, and time periods. We explore how the conception of taxation in different contexts is closely interrelated with the language used to describe it, with language being a product of histories of colonialism, conflict, and extraction by social, traditional and political actors. We argue that studies of taxation, particularly survey-based research, need to be complemented, if not informed, by a deeper understanding of the diversity of tax landscapes and of the meanings ascribed to taxation in a given context. This will strengthen content and interpretive validity of taxpayer perception data as well as provide important nuances to the understanding of the dynamics of taxpayers’ experiences of contemporary states and systems of taxation.


Ane Karoline Bak

Ane Karonline Bak is an Assistant Professor in Political Science, based at the Danish Centre for Welfare Studies, University of Sourthern Denmark. She works with issues related to taxation, welfare institutions, governance and accountability in the Global South but particularly focused on Sub-Saharan Africa.

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.