Since the early 1990s, many countries in Anglophone Africa have established (semi-) autonomous revenue authorities (ARAs), organisationally distinct from ministries of finance, with some real operational autonomy, and with staff paid at rates similar to those in comparable private sector jobs. The introduction of revenue agencies has been seen by some as a step on the road to privatisation of the revenue collection process. We demonstrate in the article that this is a misreading of the story of revenue authorities in Anglophone Africa. This conclusion is reached by examining two related sets of questions. The first set concerns the transnational transfer of institutions. Is it a problem that ARAs have spread so fast under the influence of aid and of international financial institutions? The second set of questions relates to the more specific issue of the autonomy of revenue agencies. Is the establishment of revenue agencies another way of fragmenting the authority of already weak central government institutions? Our answers are largely ‘no' to both sets of concerns. Addressing these questions enables us to explain what ARAs actually imply for state capacity in Anglophone Africa.

Odd-Helge Fjeldstad

Research Professor, Coordinator: Tax and Public Finance

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