Jaco Oelofsen | Webinar Report | 26 July 2021
On 7 July Alternative Information & Development Centre (AIDC), African Forum on Debt and Development (AFRODAD), and Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA) co-hosted a webinar titled “African Response to G7 Tax Proposals”. This webinar focused on the G7 and OECD international tax reform process which had taken major steps forward at the time, with the hope of putting forward a joint response to the process by African civil society organisations (CSOs).
The webinar followed G7’s approval of the OECD tax proposal in early June. The implications of these proposals required an urgent and unified African civil society response to the proposals. As well as to provide a platform from which African CSOs could articulate a joint response to the G7/OECD tax proposal; broaden the discussion beyond the realm of tax experts; and discuss the practical and strategic implications of the proposal and identify ways forward.
The webinar was composed of three parts:
- An introductory set of three presentations, which would contextualize the webinar for those new to the discussion in addition to laying the foundation for the panel discussion.
- A panel discussion, composed of critical voices from organisations intimately involved with, and knowledgeable of, the international tax reform process.
- An audience Q&A, and open discussion.
The initial presentations provided a basis for discussion, giving an overview of the G7 tax reform process, as well as some initial points of critique, and comments about alternative processes:
- The two pillar structure of the tax reforms were analysed, and it was pointed out that the proposed rules will provide a minimum of tax revenue for developing countries, while handing over the bulk of the revenue to the wealthy OECD nations.
- The two-pillar proposal was acknowledged as a historic challenge to some harmful and outdated fundamentals of the global tax system – but it was also mentioned that they may constitute a missed opportunity for truly progressive reform.
- It was repeatedly emphasised that the concerns of developing nations have been ignored in the OECD/G7 process; that the platform is fundamentally biased towards the interests of the Global North.
- It was pointed out that these concerns are shared by the Global South, and not just Africa. There is room for broader solidarity and cooperation.
- The 15% global minimum tax rate was criticised as absurdly low, especially compared to the massive revenues made by today’s multinational tech giants.
- Finally, some strategic questions were raised. Should African CSOs accept the historic progress represented by the OECD process, and work to change it from within? Or is it necessary to reject the proposal, and argue for a new and more truly democratic process, for example under the auspices of the United Nations?
The initial inputs were followed by a panel discussion, beginning with an impassioned input from African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) representative Logan Wort. Wort emphasised that, despite the criticism of the reforms, we should not expect resistance from politicians in the developing world as those with the authority to sign or reject the deal have been subject to diplomatic pressure. These individuals, namely finance ministers and heads of state, may be aware of the concerns of the deal from their own experts, but have essentially made their decision in advance due to diplomatic and political pressure. This point was echoed by Irene Odida-Ovonji, from the United Nations’ FACTI Panel.
African CSOs therefore have a political struggle ahead of them, where a civil society mobilizing effort will become necessary in order to put real pressure on states to challenge the reforms and to advocate for an inclusive process under the United Nations. However, Wort also pointed out that there is no simple dichotomy between rejecting the deal and attempting to modify it from within; both ought to be pursued, and if it proves impossible to get a better deal for African countries, then this should be used as a moment in which to rally wider support. On this point, Alvin Mosioma also emphasised that this message and discussion has to be simplified and made more accessible to a broader range of progressive actors. Finally, it was emphasised that African countries must stick together in the negotiations surrounding the deal, using this solidarity as leverage.
In the end, the key takeaways were that the OECD/G7 tax reforms must be challenged by African states and civil society, and that this has to happen on multiple levels. While technical arguments are important, it is political will that ought to be the focus of civil society efforts in the coming period.
Moderator: Chenai Mukumba | Tax Justice Network Africa
Unpacking the G7 Proposal: Jaco Oelofsen | AIDC
Critical Global South Perspective: Dereje Alemeyehu | Global Alliance for Tax Justice
Alternatives and Opportunities: Tony Salvador | Third World Network
Logan Wort | ATAF
Yungong Theophilus | AFRODAD
Irene Odida-Ovonji | UN FACTI
Alvin Mosioma | TJNA
Watch the recording of the webinar here