Book provides first overview of property tax in Africa

Monday, June 26, 2017

Amid rapid urbanization in Africa, local governments should be able to rely on the stability of the property tax, according to new research by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

For immediate release
Contact: Anthony Flint 617-503-2116 anthony.flint@lincolninst.edu / Will Jason 617-503-2254


Nairobi, Kenya

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (June 26, 2017) – Africa’s rapid growth and urbanization will require stable local governments to deliver goods and services to billions of people, and the continent can look to an underutilized source of revenue, the property tax, write the authors of a book published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

In Property Tax in Africa: Status, Challenges, and Prospects (Paperback $40.00, 625 pages: ISBN: 978-1-55844-363-1), Riël Franzsen and William McCluskey of the African Tax Institute at the University of Pretoria provide the first comprehensive study of the property tax in Africa, laying out challenges, opportunities, and pathways to improvement. They analyze property tax systems in 29 countries and offer four regional overviews, highlighting the key political, administrative, and technical issues that affect how these systems function.

The book comes at a critical time for Africa. The world’s fastest growing continent, Africa has added more than 500 million people since 1990, and by 2050 it will hold a quarter of the world’s population. The continent is rapidly urbanizing, and together with Asia will absorb most of the world’s urban growth in the coming decades.

“Nowhere are the fiscal challenges of urbanization more pronounced than in Africa,” Lincoln Institute President and CEO George W. “Mac” McCarthy writes in the book’s foreward. “Establishing high-functioning systems capable of delivering reliable annual revenue flows to help cities make ends meet will require a lot of work. But there is plenty of room for optimism.”

The property tax contributes relatively little revenue in most African countries, representing only 0.38 percent of gross domestic product, on average, compared to more than 2 percent the mostly developed countries that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Property Tax in Africa identifies many common challenges, including poor tax collection and enforcement, weak administration, and inadequate systems for assessing property values.

Despite the relatively low utilization of the property tax in most African countries, some cities generate significant revenues from the tax. The property tax represents 42 percent of all locally generated revenue in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 23 percent in Nairobi, Kenya, and 21 percent in Accra, Ghana, for example.

The book also highlights some successes in cities that have been able to bolster their property tax systems. The city of Kitwe, Zambia undertakes supplementary valuations, which have increased the number of properties on the tax rolls and increased assessed values, leading to greater revenue. In Kampala, Uganda, officials from the national Uganda Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Finance collaborated with the local government to set up a new office for revenue collection, which more than doubled the collection of property tax in four years.

A resource for property tax scholars as well as public officials and practitioners on the ground, the book makes recommendations for improving the performance of the property tax in Africa, including the following:

  • Thoroughly analyze the property tax system and decide how it relates to national economic development goals.
  • Audit the legal underpinnings of the property tax and redraft laws, as needed, to lay the groundwork for more effective systems.
  • In most countries, concentrate reform in the largest cities.
  • Focus on collection and enforcement systems first.
  • Plan gradual transitions that allows the tax administration to catch up and taxpayers to get used to the new system.

In addition to continent-wide and regional overviews, the book includes detailed analyses of the 29 countries: Benin, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Praise for Property Tax in Africa

"This one-of-a-kind study is an indispensable source for academics and policy makers who seek to explore the virtues of the property tax. The relevance of this volume clearly transcends the continent it embraces, and pertains to the large majority of countries at the global level that are now engaged in developing a property tax. This is a very impressive book.”

John Norregaard
Tax Policy Consultant
Former Member of IMF Tax Policy Team

Property Tax in Africa is a remarkable book. Those interested in improving urban services, land administration, and tenure security in Africa will find this book invaluable. There is no comparable resource available in terms of breadth or depth of insights into land taxation, administration, and policy in Africa.”

Lawrence Walters
Emeritus Professor of Public Management
Romney Institute
Brigham Young University

“Property taxation is high on any list of possible solutions to harness Africa­’s wealth for the betterment of its people. The authors greatly add to our understanding of the challenges faced and have created an invaluable resource to guide policy development. This book will rapidly become required reading for all students of the property tax in Africa.”

Peadar Davis
Senior Lecturer in Property Appraisal and Management
School of the Built Environment
Ulster University

About the Authors

Riël Franzsen occupies the South African Research Chair in Tax Policy and Governance and is also director of the African Tax Institute at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He has a doctorate in tax law from the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa) and a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Pretoria. He specializes in land and property taxation and regularly acts as a policy advisor for the International Monetary Fund, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and World Bank. He has worked in this capacity in Africa (Egypt, Kenya, Liberia, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda), Asia (Thailand), the Caribbean (Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines) and Europe (Croatia, Georgia, Romania and Serbia). He has acted as an instructor for the IMF (Austria, Singapore and Saint Lucia), Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (China and Slovenia), Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (Macedonia) and The Hague Academy for Local Governance (Lesotho). He is on the Board of Advisors of the International Property Tax Institute, regularly participates in local and international conferences and has authored many journal papers and book chapters on land and property taxation.

Dr. William McCluskey joined the University of Ulster in 1986. He was appointed as Professor of Property Studies at Lincoln University, Christchurch, New Zealand from 2001-2002. He is currently Extraordinary Professor at the African Tax Institute, University of Pretoria, South Africa. His main professional and academic interests are in the fields of real estate valuation, property tax systems, computer assisted mass appraisal modelling and geographic information systems. He is a technical adviser on property tax issues with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and has been involved in a number of missions advising on ad valorem tax issues in countries including Albania, Bermuda, Botswana, China, The Gambia, Georgia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Lesotho, Northern Ireland, Philippines, Poland, Mauritius, Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

About the Lincoln Institute

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy seeks to improve quality of life through the effective use, taxation, and stewardship of land. A nonprofit private operating foundation whose origins date to 1946, the Lincoln Institute researches and recommends creative approaches to land as a solution to economic, social, and environmental challenges. Through education, training, publications, and events, we integrate theory and practice to inform public policy decisions worldwide.

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