Environmental Taxes in Africa

By Elvis Oyare

While taxation has traditionally been regarded as a revenue-generating scheme in which a person contributes to the running of the state in exchange for the maintenance of order in the society as well as the provision of several services, increasingly, taxation has become an instrument which the state wields in the performance of its regulatory function over various industries within its borders. Through the imposition of ‘specialized taxes,’ states are able to perform the dual role of restricting or mitigating the performance of certain activities as well as being a creative way to perform their traditional aim of raising essential fiscal revenue. Several of these specialized taxes exist, however, of relevance to our present discussion is such type of tax referred to as Environmental taxes.
Pursuant to the OECD, Environmental taxes are those taxes whose tax base is a physical unit (or a proxy of it) that has been proven to have specific detrimental impacts on the environment.1 These types of taxes are diverse and include amongst others energy taxes, carbon taxes, fossil fuel taxes, pollution taxes, transport taxes, and resource taxes.2
Carbon taxes are a form of excise tax on the producers of raw fossil fuels, based on the relative carbon content of those fuels. These taxes discourage the use of fossil fuels that are carbon-intensive by making them more expensive. Energy taxes are taxes on energy products which include consumption of electricity, consumption of fuel, and emission of greenhouse gases. They are levied on the energy-producing source/ the installation plant. Fossil fuel taxes are downstream taxes applied to fossil products, such as diesel, gasoline, and vehicular natural gas, that are used for road transport. Transport taxes on the other hand are traditionally qualified as a tax that is related to the ownership and use of motor vehicles. Pollution tax is calculated based on the emission of different gases (i.e. NOx, SOx, CO2 ) or ozone-depleting substances and harm caused to water resources or land using different materials (chemicals, pesticides) or anything that dissolves in nature or reacts to it. A resource tax refers to a tax levied on the extraction of a natural resource.
Following an increase in emissions and environmental pollution as a result of certain industrial activities, a number of African countries have begun introducing environmental taxes to curb these activities into their fiscal regime. These countries, although the list is not exhaustive, include South Africa; Kenya; Ghana; Egypt amongst others.3
According to ATAF, based on a survey of 37 ATO countries, revenues from environmental taxes average 0.13% of gross domestic product. Whilst these are the lowest contributor to GDP, there is scope for these taxes to increase the tax take.
As the rest of the continent endeavors to catch up on the imposition of environmental taxes, their policymakers must conduct empirical studies in order to avoid any unintended environmental or fiscal consequences where they adopt a one-size-fits-all approach and just apply taxes seen to be applied in other countries. There are optimal alternatives and it is essential that tax administrations are cognizant of the taxation principles of neutrality; efficiency; certainty and simplicity; effectiveness as well as fairness when intending to introduce such taxes.4

1. ‘What Are Environmental Taxes? | Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES)’ http://jacses.org/en/paco/envtax.htm accessed 6 February 2022

2. Ibid

3. Kombat AM and Wätzold F, ‘The Emergence of Environmental Taxes in Ghana—A Public Choice Analysis’ (2019) 29 Environmental Policy and Governance 46 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/eet.1829 accessed 6 February 2022

4. OECD, ‘Fundamental Principles of Taxation’ accessed 6 February 2022


Parita Shah,
Department of Earth and Climate Science, University of Nairobi

7th December 2021


By 2017, Africa was emitting less than 4% of carbon dioxide emissions.1 Although the continent is the lowest emitter, African countries will lose 2-5% of their GDP with the slightest warming scenario.2 This means Africa will not be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially reducing poverty, creating jobs, the equitable approach for all and climate adaptation.
While the continent wants to achieve the SDGs, it must also be able to fight climate induced problems. However, there is a real challenge to that. This is because while the 2015 Paris Agreement focused on reducing fossil fuel emissions, the CoP 26 whose target was to totally phase out fossil fuels by the developed nations, are talking about ‘phasing down coal’ rather than ‘phasing off coal’. While Africa continuously suffers from the debt crisis, its climate induced crisis will increase as its European and Chinese counterparts are funding investments in the fossil fuel sector.
For example, in 2020 the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Senegal increased by 39% due to an offshore oil and gas drilling project invested by Australian and British Companies. The same was the case in the Republic of Congo where the investments increased by 19% towards offshore oil drilling, in the Democratic Republic of Congo it increased by 11%.3 China brought in funding of 2 billion dollars to Kenya for mining coal in the Lamu (World Heritage Site) region under the Amu Coal Project. All this means the destruction of the mangroves, habitat, corals and biodiversity under the sea. Kenya was lucky that its National Environmental Tribunal ruled against the power plant decision and the project came to a halt.4

The problem

African countries are further worsening climate induced problems by offering their citizens fossil fuel subsidies. Kenya is one such country where taxpayers pay towards these expenses and yet they suffer the consequences of climate change. To worsen it further, these countries will keep on repaying their debts created by the fossil fuel foreign investment partners and in turn, the environment deteriorates through droughts, floods, rise in sea levels, pests and diseases. African countries are increasing their own debt burden which unfortunately will be carried as a cross by its taxpayers whose lives will also worsen with climate change. Natural resources will diminish and countries’ debts will stay as a burden as payments will become next to impossible due to diminishing revenues worsened by climate change accompanied by poverty.

The solution

Instead of digging their fossil fuels, these countries need innovative finance which can be in the form of blended finance, green and blue bonds and debt swaps. Countries can bring in private investors where they work with communities on developing renewable energy like solar and wind which are very practical in arid and semi-arid areas. This would create a balance for the taxes which locals pay as well as implement most country and county policies that reflect on human rights where the right to a clean and healthy environment is the key. This also helps combat the negatives of climate change caused by fossil fuels.
To add to that, countries can also sell green and blue bonds based on renewable energy, terrestrial conservation and the blue economy which would sustain the negative impacts of climate change. Egypt released its renewable bond in 2020 while Seychelles released their blue bond in 2018. Moreover, debt swaps are also an option if we want to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Where countries cannot afford to pay off their debts, there should be the alternatives to conservation like protection of wetlands, habitats, preventing deforestation and mangrove destruction. This would help curb environmental destruction and reduce the negative impacts of climate change while at the same time financing Africa’s climate driven agenda.


  1. Ayompe. L. M., Davis. S. J and Egoh. B. N., (2021). Trends and drivers of African fossil fuel CO2 emissions 1990–2017. Environmental Research Letters Environ. Res. Lett. 15 (2020) 124039.
  2. Economic Commission of Africa
  3. The World Bank., (2021). International Debt Statistics 2022. World Bank Group.
  4. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20211028-how-chinas-climate-decisions-affect-the-world

Reflections on the Economist Intelligence Unit Report on Vaccine Inequity

Annette Nabayi, 8th November 2021


Vaccine inequity explains how COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out in an unequal manner between advanced and developing economies. Presently, the European countries have recorded higher vaccination levels of their population while the African and other developing states have evidenced a 1% vaccination rate. Consequently, the EIU report on vaccine inequity predicts economic losses for the developed and developing nations resulting out of vaccine inequality. The unequal distribution of the vaccine globally might lead to a loss of $2.3 trillion GDP between 2022 and 2025. In this blog, I reflect on the findings of the report on vaccine inequity. I will outline the identified causes of vaccine inequity and then describe its impact on the developing world. Towards the end I will suggest some action steps.

Causes of Vaccine Inequity

The report states that vaccine inequity has been triggered by aspects such as shortage of raw materials resulting in lessened production abilities, specifically in developing states. Other aspects entail limited availability of finance which developing states can spend between meeting basic needs of its population and purchasing vaccines, reduced healthcare staff to administer the vaccines, poor infrastructure to transport the vaccines, and vaccine hesitancy.

Impact of Vaccine Inequity

The report projects that by mid-2022, many states will have vaccinated less than 60% of their citizens. Most countries in Europe, North America, South America, and China have already attained the 60% rate while two-thirds of African countries are yet to reach this rate will attain the 60% level from 2023 onwards. The states that have vaccinated less than 60% of their population will record a GDP loss of $2.3 trillion between 2022 and 2025. Countries in Asia will be highly affected with an estimated loss of $1.7 trillion while Africa will be severely impacted with an evaluated 3% level of the predicted GDP in 2022 to 2025. The need to increase the vaccination level to the recommended 60% degree will help in the dismissal of social distancing measures, increase in revenue from tourism and business travel activities, and preventing probable social unrest of prolonged struggle against COVID-19.

Bridging the Vaccine-Access Gap

The vaccine access gap might last long that anticipated only few vaccines have been distributed. COVAX is an initiative by WHO with a goal of providing equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. It is to ensure all countries receive a fair share of vaccines under which 1.9 billion doses have been pledged. From the time of this pledge in 2020, only 210 million doses have been shipped to Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. COVAX will help bridge vaccine inequality through fair distribution of the vaccines. Advanced economies such as Russia that have pledged to provide vaccines to developing nations has evidenced production challenges hence the delivery delay. China’s pledge of vaccines has been adversely influenced by claims that the vaccines have low levels of protection. Seychelles had to impose lockdown after the inoculation of the China vaccine while Chile administered boosters to the inoculated China’s Sinovac vaccine.

Way Forward

The vaccine’s essence is to provide safeguards against infection. Therefore, the need to determine sustainable approaches to treat COVID-19. Currently, some states are formulating COVID strategies such as informed scientific input, strong political commitment, and decisive actions that might eliminate COVID.

Domestic Resource Mobilisation, Debt and Citizen Participation: Navigating Sustainable Development in Africa

By Mwaniki Maina

The United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development states that development is a process made up of political, social, economic and cultural dimensions.[1] Successful realisation of the process of development includes active, free and meaningful participation by the citizens and that this participation is based on reasonable opportunity to be involved.[2] The terms active, free, meaningful and reasonable address the role of the citizens in development that is participation in all stages of infrastructural, economic, political and socio-cultural development. Thus, the Declaration provides a blueprint suggesting that development ought to be multi-sectoral and it ought to encompass all members of society.

The requirement of active, free, meaningful and reasonable participation are key elements to the realisation of the principles of transparency, accountability and responsibility, which make up the ideology of fiscal legitimacy. The principles of fiscal legitimacy also include justice, fairness, effectiveness and efficiency. Thus, understanding that development is a process, allows the analysis of its justice and fairness, questioning whether this development facilitates transparency, accountability and responsibility and finally, assessing the process’ effectiveness and efficiency.[3]

Sustainable development is premised on the Leave-No-One-Behind principle, which provides that all members of society ought to be involved in development.[4] This includes vulnerable groups such as women, children, the youth, the elderly and disabled persons and persons who have been marginalised and excluded from decision making.[5] The principles of justice and fairness in fiscal legitimacy inform the realisation of sustainable development in that, they call for equitable distribution of development and further, where resources are collected for the purpose of development, this contribution should only occasion minor discomfort to the citizens.[6]

What sustainable development and fiscal legitimacy thus suggest is that the citizens ought to be actively involved in the process of development. The decisions made in regard to development ought to have the approval of the members of society. The process of development involves multiple stages such as the proposal for development, financing of the intended development, to the actual implementation of development. In all these stages, the citizens ought to be afforded active, free and meaningful participation. This is in pursuance of justice and fairness in development distribution and it is based on transparency, accountability and responsibility, with the goal being efficient and effective development.

Critical to development is financing. For most governments, financing comes in the form of taxes, loans and grants as well as government businesses.[7] Following the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, many developing countries were faced with the real need to increase their domestic resource mobilisation.[8] That is, increasing their revenue collection from their tax bases. Loans and grants were not as freely available during the pandemic as they were earlier, this was seen as a result of donor countries focusing their resources on cushioning their own economies first.[9] Thus, financing development as countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic which witnessed many African countries go into recessions, contracting their economies by 2%,[10] should take into account the need for domestic resources and debt sustainability.

Citizen involvement is even more necessary in the development process during this period of pandemic recovery for most economies in the developing world. The principles of fiscal legitimacy and the ideology of sustainable development demand that financing of development be done in a manner that occasions the least burden to the citizenry, that all members of society be involved in decision making and that these initiatives be sustainable.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has been involved in the financing African economies discussion and hosted the Summit on Financing African Economies in May of 2021. The position of the OECD is that, overall growth requires the development of infrastructure and that infrastructural development is only possible, where it is adequately financed. The OECD states that financing infrastructural development requires an improvement in the bankability of these projects, noting that often times, there is a financing gap between the resources available to developing countries and their development needs. The suggestions available include the reliance on public debt, an increase in domestic resource mobilisation which would see increased revenue collection and finally, the involvement of the private sector through public-private partnerships. These are all sentiments that were raised by parties present in a technical meeting by the OECD in partnership with AUDA-NEPAD and ACET.[11]

Public debt, domestic resource mobilisation and public-private partnerships all need to be addressed using the principles of fiscal legitimacy. As countries take up debt, there is a need to address debt sustainability. The principles of justice and fairness suggest that the citizens ought to be subjected to minimal burden and discomfort where the collection of public resources is concerned. With regard to debt sustainability, countries taking on debt to finance their infrastructural development should not impose heavy tax burdens as a means to collect funds to repay these debts. Governments in developing countries are encouraged to set debt ceilings that would limit the amount of borrowing as well as taking up loans on concessional terms as opposed to commercial terms.[12]

The citizens have a right to access information on the government’s debt portfolio and as such, the governments ought to make this information publicly available, in line with the principles of transparency, responsibility and accountability. Citizen involvement ought to be based on a reasonable opportunity to engage and participate. Thus, the channels through which this information is disbursed, as well as the language used, should be citizen-friendly and accessible to the most vulnerable. Nazir and Yiega state that access to information on the government’s borrowing is necessary to combat illicit financial flows.[13]

Effectiveness and efficiency in development are hinged on the citizens’ ability to participate in the development, financing of these projects, actual construction of development projects as well as their maintenance. The citizens are central to the development and as such, should be afforded access to information on their governments’ borrowing and expenditure as well as the resources collected from the public. Using tools such as participatory budgeting, the citizens have a seat at the table. From formulation, approval, implementation to evaluation and audit, the citizens ought to be involved in the financing of development. Public participation fora as well as the reliance on tools such as the media, present opportunities for the citizens to be actively and meaningfully involved.

Development is a multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder process. It is continuous and thus should involve all the members of the community. Funding development projects should be done in a manner that is sustainable for the present and future generations, as well as following a set of rules that allow scrutiny by the public thus transparent and accountable. Development cannot be single-faceted and infrastructural development should go hand in hand with socio-cultural development as well as economic growth. This would facilitate sustainable and equitable development.


[1] United Nations, Declaration on the Right to Development 1986.

[2] Flávia Piovesan, ‘Active, Free and Meaningful Participation in Development’, Realizing the Right to Development (eBook, United Nations 2013).

[3] Attiya Waris, ‘TOWARDS AN AFRICAN AND KENYAN PHILOSOPHY OF FISCAL LEGITIMACY’ (2019) 1 Journal on Financing for Development.

[4] United Nations, ‘Leave No One Behind’ (UNSDG).

[5] United Nations Development Programme, ‘What Does It Mean to Leave No One Behind’ (2018).

[6] Waris (n 3).

[7] Attiya Waris, Financing Africa (Langaa RPCIG 2019).

[8] OECD, ‘The Impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis on Development Finance’ (OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID 19), 2020) <https://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/the-impact-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-crisis-on-development-finance-9de00b3b/> accessed 5 May 2021.

[9] Stephen Brown, ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Foreign Aid’ (DEVPOLICY BLOG, 2021) <https://devpolicy.org/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-foreign-aid-20210401-2/> accessed 6 May 2021.

[10] Aby Toure and Daniella Von Leggelo Padilla, ‘Amid Recession, Sub-Saharan Africa Poised for Recovery’ (World Bank, 2021) <https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2021/03/31/amid-recession-sub-saharan-africa-poised-for-recovery> accessed 30 April 2021.

[11] Technical Meeting held on 15th April by the OECD, AUDA-NEPAD and ACET ahead of the Summit on Financing African Economies

[12] Waris (n 7).


The Recent Addis FFD process and its Impact on Tax in the non G20 World

States democratically opted out of the process of being part of the decision-making on what the global tax rules will look like in the future

I had the pleasure and honour of being present for part of the peripheral discussions and side events at the recently concluded FFD process in Addis Ababa a few days ago. As a lawyer and academic who is active in civil society I had an interesting time there watching and participating in the activities and several issues caught my attention from a tax and development perspective mainly the issue of fiscal legitimacy at a global level: accountability , responsibility, transparency, effectiveness, efficiency, fairness and justice in the processes at the global level of suffrage where one state has one vote!

Firstly, it is clear that the decision to build international and global democracy is constantly being kicked at the feet. I think that all states whether they are tax havens or not, developed or developing countries all have the right to participate in the legal processes that decide on laws …call it an international democracy and that this compromise will be a much better one than the one currently in place where only the G20 decide on how the laws and their architecture are to be designed.

I watched as the discussions unfolded into a deadlock on the creation of a democratic International Tax Organisation(ITO) that then was seemingly toppled over through political manouvering and offering of concessions to individual countries. Those in biggest opposition to the ITO seem to be the usual suspects from the G20 the USA (that houses the worst secrecy jurisdiction n the world-Delaware) and the UK ( that is the home of the new tax that manages to add more competition to the global and regional landscape of taxation ). Speculation was that the African countries that crumbled included South Africa the current chair of the G77 (itself a net received of IFF) and Ethiopia, the host nation (to whom concessions were promised) It seems clear that there was clearly a ‘democratic’ decision to remove the possibility of the remainder of the non G20 world to engage in a democratic process of deciding on how global taxes and wealth should be shared.

Secondly, the limits on commitments to fiscally provide more money to ODA or even domestic revenue collection, the result can only bode ill for the Development Agenda that took place a week later in New York. How is it possible that there will be more resources committed by states globally to improved health, housing, education and gender based issues and concerns as well as rooting out corruption when the states that should have decided not only to change the architecture of the international landscape on international taxes and flows democratically bowed out of the process.

Finally, the one winning point was gender. The mentions of gender throughout the end document have been strong and have maintained their concrete issues without being undermined or weakened. However the other area of human rights remain on tenuous ground as a failure to agree on availing more funds for rights will result in their non-realisation.

In conclusion the clearest issue coming forward is that the status quo has seemingly been maintained and while one waits to see how the improved structure of the UN Tax Committee will be fleshed out and one can only hope that the fullest extent of its mandate will be explored as we inch towards global fiscal legitimacy!

Reflecting on Progressive Realisation and the Financing of the MDGs: An African Analysis

The absence of express provisions relating to finances has impeded the realisation of human rights. Holmes and Sustein stated “rights cannot be protected or enforced without public funding and support…all rights make claims on public treasury.” Rights require resources to be allocated to them in order that they can begin to be realised.

There are several core texts which provide the source of human rights discourse in Africa. These are the UDHR, the ICCPR and the ICESCR and even though they do not offer a definition of human rights they all state that the main purpose of these rights is to promote human dignity. Regionally, African states have the ACHPR (The African Charter of Human and People’s Rights), a treaty that has outlined the various human rights but not the right to social welfare.

Globally, the Millennium Development Goals were a critical step towards achieving the most crucial social, economic and human rights making financial demands of state nationally as well as in co-operating with other states to realise rights, however this was limited to developing countries only. While most countries have made remarkable progress towards achieving them, low-tax and low-income states in Africa are still lagging behind.

Data using a simple analysis shows that there is a direct relationship between the amount of tax collected as opposed to resource revenue and the responsibility of the state in re-distributing the resources for the benefit of their people.[1] Although there have been challenges when it comes to relating tax to MDGs, there are debates moving towards the possibility and the practicalities of the connection between the two practically although the treaty framework does not reflect this with enough clarity. At the level of political will, the AU Agenda for 2063 also sets out an ambitious development plan aimed towards the realisation of rights especially economic rights.

The main obstacle to the realisation of these human and socio-economic rights is limited resources. A declaration of rights as being human or socio-economic does not suffice for their realisation, instead, the development of equitable global, regional and national tax systems will be instrumental in achieving these rights and ultimately, the Millennium Development Goals and the Post 2015 development agenda.

[1] Waris and Kohonen, Linking Taxation to the Realisation of the Millenium Development Goals in Africa

http://eadi.org/gc2011/waris-109.pdf (accessed 20th May 2015)

Towards a Framework Convention on Global Health : A Fiscal Perspective

Achieving health globally requires a combination of a change in thinking and action as well as a financing of certain aspects; there are both fiscal and non-fiscal challenges to the achievement of health globally for all people whether they live in developed or developing countries. However, what will it take to eliminate the gross health inequities that continue to plague the world, the unconscionable health gaps between the rich and poor?

Today the world is focusing on two different processes in an attempt to achieve health as well as other important milestones in the well-being of all people. The Financing for Development process on the one hand is looking to encourage and crystallize fiscal commitments of states while the SDG discussions are focusing on the basic needs and rights of peoples that can be achieved in the post 2015 period.

The eyes of the global health community are similarly focused on the post-2015 sustainable development goals, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) is advocating for universal health coverage: global health with justice  improving healthy lives for everyone, with particular attention to marginalised communities worldwide and its fiscal implications. The sustainable development agenda, however, cannot achieve global health with justice without robust fiscal global, regional and national level governance. A proposal has been made for the adoption of a legally binding global health treaty – a framework convention on global health grounded in the right to health.

While many may argue that there is treaty fatigue and perhaps too many treaties there remains the need to crystallise one particular principle in human rights treaties: rights require resources. The continued reliance on the idealism of human rights without reference to the reality of the need to fund it can no longer be ignore and if for no other reason a framework convention on global health could allow for the clear recognition of this principle. The financing of health under the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights places the responsibility of progressive realisation on both domestic states as well as through international co-operation and assistance and to date this has remained within the discretion of states as they choose to assist or not, health is a global issue: diseases cross borders as easily as the wind can blow and both these arms of realisation need further clarity within a treaty framework.

The understanding of the right to health remains partially clouded and this hinders both domestic and international accountability for international human rights obligations. To solve this problem, a framework convention on global health could bring clarity and precision to norms and standards surrounding the right to health, including states’ duties to “take steps…to the maximum of their available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realisation” of the right to health. Most importantly, the framework convention on global health could build on a progressive post-2015 development framework by putting specific standards and forceful accountability behind the post-2015 global commitments for both the SDGs as well as the FfD processes.