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Matti Kohonen of Christian Aid holds out the enticing prospect that African countries could collect an additional 1.5 percent of gross domestic product in tax if only big multinationals would stop dodging. The problem is that this estimate is (still) based on wishful thinking. Multinational corporations should pay tax, but the scale of potential revenues depend on underlying levels of investment and profitability in a country.
Sub-Saharan African countries are at a critical juncture. With China's slowdown and the collapse in commodity prices, growth slipped to 3.4 percent in 2015, on average just over half what it has been for the past 15 years. Estimated growth for 2016 is below the population growth rate of about 2 percent, thus negative in per capita terms.
In testimony last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, CGD’s Ben Leo called upon Congress to modernize how the United States supports economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. The hearing was called to reflect on the progress since the August 2014 US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington and to address obstacles that continue to discourage greater private-sector engagement in the region.
The African Development Bank almost wasn’t. Twenty years ago, the Bank lost its crucial AAA credit rating and its future was very much in doubt. Yet now it is held up as one of the largest sources of infrastructure finance for the region, a multilateral financing institution owned by 53 African and 25 non-regional governments, akin to a regional World Bank.
The African Development Bank is an amazing turnaround story. The regional development bank was close to shutting down after losing its AAA credit rating in 1995 and, worse, squandering the confidence of its shareholders.
At its founding, a primary function of World Bank was to help developing countries develop the energy, transport and water infrastructure essential for economic development. Half a century later, as the World Bank Country Director for Brazil I saw the products of this – the World Bank funded one major hydropower plant in each of the first ten years that the Bank operated in Brazil, thus helping Brazil build a low-cost energy platform for economic growth in Brazil for the next 50 years.
The long-anticipated rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP series was finally made public on Sunday April 6, and the general media reaction has been cautiously celebratory. But the reaction has largely missed one big point: the rebasing establishes that the biggest economy in Africa has the lowest tax revenues of almost any country in the world.