Santon, South Africa – Journalists and communication officers from tax authorities from various countries in Africa are in South Africa discussing ways and means of deepening knowledge and relationship to enhance tax collection on the continent and make data from collected revenue more relevant to the public.
From Liberia, FrontPageAfrica’s Lennart Dodoo, Daily Observer’s Joaquin Sendolo and David Yates and D. Kaihenneh Sengbeh, communications manager of the Liberia Revenue Authority are in attendance.
The three-day media engagement and training which began on March 26 was organized by the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF).
The engagement focuses on how Africa is addressing priority tax issues at the local and international levels and how the media can positively impact the work of tax administrations.
Mary Baine of ATAF Secretariat helped participants broaden their understanding on taxation and state building. The presentation focused on setting the context of the significance that taxation has in sustaining nations and promoting development on the continent. It also looked at the expectations citizens have towards their governments based on the taxes they pay and the role of the media in educating, informing, criticizing and putting to light the gaps that citizens feel from the contracts government entered with them.
Another session led by Thulani Shongwe and Frankie Mbuyamba focused on trends in taxation and what matters for Africa. In their deliberations, the presenters shed light on the work of ATAF on international tax, domestic resource mobilization, illicit financial flows, base erosion and profit shifting. This session highlighted key aspects that the continent faces in the struggle to finance their own budgets from revenue and taxation. The presentation also sharpened understanding on the significance of the media in relation to taxation and self-financing African States and the role of ATAF in taxation.
A panel discussion explored the opportunities and challenges facing reporting on tax matters in the African media. The panelist which comprised main stream reporters and communication officers of tax authorities sought to explore the changing nature of the media landscape in Africa, looking at diverse issues such as mobile technology use, access and liberalization of the media sector. They also assessed the current state of tax reporting in African media and examined impediments to reporting on taxation including: resourcing of newsrooms, training for the media, access to reliable information, the increase of citizen journalism. The panelist comprised Djimet Wiche Wahili, Vusie Norman Dlamini, Wahab Atanda Gbadamosi, Ceyrano-Patrick Obiang and Sara Jerving.
There were also deliberations on what would make news in taxation. This discussion brought to the fore the challenges media faces in attaining tax-related information on one hand the bureaucracies and policies that bar communication officers of tax authorities from releasing some information to the media. It also focused on whether reporters are reporting stories on taxation rightly.
Panelists comprising Salome Kitomari, Yusuf Ibrahim Apekhade, Alain Paul Sene, Rochete Libombo, Prosper Ndlovu shared experiences on challenges faced readers/viewers, editors and owners of media houses. This session was aimed at fostering mutual relationship between reporters and spokespersons of tax administrations.
There were group discussions on challenges tax administrations face in dealing with journalists and how those challenges can be averted. From the discussions amongst various groups, it was realized that there is the need for reduction in the bureaucracies tax administrations have to go through before releasing information to the media. Media practitioners have to prove themselves trust worthy that they would use information attained from tax administration responsibly without distortion. There were calls from group members for the simplifying of tax jargons when communicating to members of the media to enable them also clearly inform their audiences.
The discussion triggered the extreme importance of maintaining professionalism, objectivity with significant contribution to state building and the formation of a network of reporters who would build interest and focus on reporting on taxation in their respective countries.
There was also group discussion on deepening media engagement and taxation, taking into consideration what works best for Africa. This session created an avenue for to encourage participants to begin to identify potential areas of collaboration.
Over the past nine years ATAF, as the thought leader in the field of Taxation in Africa, has been at the helm of countless initiatives aimed at reshaping the continental thinking around tax policies, tax legislations and domestic taxes. It has contributed and continues to contribute immensely to the international tax standard-setting process, in order to ensure adequate integration of African interests. ATAF hopes to make this gathering a recurring occurrence in order to offer to the media a reliable source of expertise and technical knowledge on taxation.