Pan-African businessman and Econet Group founder Strive Masiyiwa has urged young entrepreneurs to properly register their businesses and pay taxes in the countries they operate in to support the public sector and spur economic development in their nations.
Speaking during his online coaching sessions to young entrepreneurs across Africa this week, the billionaire telecoms and technology magnate, who has built businesses across continent, said paying tax was a patriotic act and a civic duty that every business person should be proud to do for their country.
“Even if you don’t like the government of the day, or think that there is too much corruption, it is not justification for you to refuse to pay taxes,” said Masiyiwa, who often speaks out against corruption.
“Paying tax is the biggest contribution an entrepreneur makes to their country. The key is not to fear paying tax but to understand how it works, so that you pay what is required of you,” he said.
Masiyiwa – who for years has been mentoring young African entrepreneurs through his Facebook blog, which now commands 5,7 million followers, and through town hall meetings in major African capitals – urged young business people to register their businesses properly, and treat the payment of taxes as an act of patriotism and their civic duty as citizens.
The business leader said the development prospects of many countries had been crippled by low tax collection rates, which leaves very little room for government resources. He added that the failure by some government agencies to clearly explain to citizens how tax works, was crippling development in many countries.
“We should all be taught about the civic and patriot responsibility of paying taxes. It is not optional, or for certain people. Everyone must pay tax,” he said.
Following the successful establishment of his various businesses in Zimbabwe, Masiyiwa has become one of the country’s largest tax contributors over the past 20 years, with his businesses contributing billions of dollars in tax revenues every year. He also contributes to tax income in several African countries where his businesses operate and in the country he lives in.
“As an entrepreneur I pay personal taxes, but most importantly I build businesses that are successful enough to pay taxes in more than 20 African countries. To imagine that one day I might be gone but the companies I leave behind will continue to contribute to the nations with services and taxes is the coolest thing ever.
“My dream is to be in at least 50 countries by the time I retire — and to be paying taxes there,” said. Masiyiwa, who is currently serving as the African Union’s Special Envoy in fighting COVID-19 on the continent.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), effective tax collection by governments helps create fiscal space, provide essential public services and reduce foreign aid and single resource dependence. But the Fund notes that the domestic tax bases in most African countries are undermined by widespread tax avoidance and evasion.