‘Media Plays Critical Role in Tax Matters’

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— ATAF, African Journalists to Set Continent’s tax, Digitalization Agenda

Over 60 selected media practitioners from across Africa, including Liberian journalists, converged in the City of Nyamata, Rwanda on March 6, 2019 to discuss their role in addressing emerging tax issues that is affecting the continent’s development.

The ongoing engagement, which is being organized by the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) and hosted by Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), is the second Media Engagement and Training of African journalists on tax-related matters.

The ATAF engagement is intended for participants, who are drawn from both public and private media institutions to delve into the conversation around how media can unpack the significance of tax issues, and how simplifying these matters can allow citizens to better understand their obligations and their contribution to development in their countries as well as their role in holding states accountable.

The three days engagement will also identify ways through which tax authorities can work with the media in making citizens more active in terms of holding states accountable.

ATF’s series of Media engagement workshops are yearly gatherings which seek to promote and enhance media coverage of tax matters in Africa, by strengthening the capacities of African journalists, promoting collaboration and facilitating the exchange of knowledge on tax-related matters.

Aimable Kayigi Habiyambere, RRA Commissioner of Domestic Taxes, said “We are honored to host this second media engagement and training program here in Rwanda.

He said as a member of the ATAF Council, Rwanda shares with ATAF the common vision of building strong revenue authorities in Africa, as a key strategy towards domestic resource mobilization through its many capacity-building initiatives, ATAF has helped several African tax administrations, including RRA, improve their revenue collection performance over the three years.

He made these statements yesterday at start of the ATAF second media engagement and training of African journalists and tax administrators communicators.

Without a doubt, Habiyambere explained that there are unresolved issues such as digitalization that still need to be unpacked, which is why partnering with continental media remains central to our strategy to promote equitable development for the benefit of our citizens.

“This event, therefore, is timely as we move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said. According to him, taxation in Africa faces a number of challenges which has an impact on delivering to its agenda.

“I believe that this engagement will inform you about the progress we are making–challenges and intervention required to close the gap in implementing tax policy,” Habiyambere said.

He also named the challenges as tax envision, non-voluntary compliance, public perception on taxes, taxing the digital economy which seems to be the future of the globe.

Habiyambere said as a member of the media, “you have a critical role to play in helping us to tackle these challenges that we are facing–because you have the power to change the public perception and to increase voluntary compliance, reduce tax envision and help us handle challenges attached to the digital economy.”

He also acknowledged the progress being made so far.

However, “we are mindful that the road ahead will be challenging but we believe that with your contribution, combined with our commitment to develop our various countries, we can work together to deliver our mandate.” Moreover, he said the media has the power to influence public opinion by setting the agenda of discussion among the public.

According to Mary Baine, Director of Tax Programmes at ATAF: “The era of globalization is upon us, and we can no longer ignore the fact that Africa’s much-needed tax base is being eroded simply through unrecorded revenue. Our continent, now more than ever, needs all the resources if it is to promote its social-economic growth and the wellbeing of its populations. We see the media as partners in our journey to advance the discourse on tax and development.”

Ms. Baine said revenue administration and ATAF attach seriousness to the engagement because the media has a role in educating the public and therefore, as partners, “we thank you and hope to continue this engagement in the near future.”

She also used the occasion to recognize the African Development Bank (AfDB) as key partner in making sure that the engagement was successful.

The public, according to her, rely on the media for information and it is “our opinion that this engagement will enable the media not only to unpack some of the more complicated issues that have to do with tax but, in turn, give them an opportunity to engage with practitioners about what is going on globally, including the fight against illicit financial flows, that will complement the work of tax administrations.

She said the global development goal or the SDGs has tax as a key player or the revenue mobilization as a key contribution to the development of the world.

According to Ms. Baine, the African development agenda, which is known as the agenda for 2063, clearly states that the collection of domestic revenue as a key component of the development agenda of Africa and, as such, it is important for everyone to play their role. We hope that this engagement will make clearer what the media can do to impact this.

“We at ATAF consider that this relationship will help the beneficiaries (the public) to understand their tax obligations as well as their responsibilities and their rights, but also help the African agenda through advocacy,” Ms. Baines concluded.

ATAF is an organization established by African revenue authorities in 2009, in order to improve the performance of tax administrations in Africa.

ATAF believes that better tax administration will enhance economic growth, increase accountability of the states to its citizens, and more effectively mobilize domestic resources.

Now in its 10th year of existence, ATAF has positioned itself as Africa’s homegrown solution to improving revenue collection, advancing the role of taxation in governance and state-building and providing a voice to the continent on international tax issues.

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