Thilo Albers, Morten Jerven, Marvin Suesse, 22 November 2020

Why do large differences in tax revenues between states exist and persist? This column introduces a comprehensive new dataset of tax and revenue collection for all African polities from 1900 to 2015 to answer this central question. The results confirm the importance of democratic institutions and political stability, while de-emphasising the role of resource revenues. Overall, states in Africa have been able to build institutions for the collection of ‘hard’ taxes when the preconditions were favourable, especially when access to external finance was limited. These insights add important nuance to established theories of state-building in developing countries.

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