Activistas take back the Tax Power

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 05:58

'Tax Power!' was yesterday's topic at the Activista forum in Nairobi. With a diverse group of coordinators from 17 countries across Africa, the Arab Region and the north, we clubbed together to fuse creative ideas with campaign strategy for holding companies and governments to account on the billions of dollars of tax revenue that is lost to big businesses' dodgy tax practices every year in poor countries.

We started the day by hearing from Activista Coordinators in Zambia, Nigeria and Kenya on the experiences and successes of their Tax Power campaigns since they launched earlier in the year.  

Ken from Nigeria told us about their Twitter conference, which included panelists from around the world and managed to reach over 1.5 million people using #TaxPowerNG.

Impressive stuff! The conference was designed to connect with the rising number of young people on Twitter and to to make global connections with people on the issue of tax dodging and tax incentives taking money away from hospitals, schools and other public services in developing countries. And Ken could confidently say it was a big success! You can read Activista Nigeria's blog post 'Reclaiming #taxpower 140 characters at a time' to find out more.

Mwila from Zambia spoke about Activista and ActionAid Zambia's campaign for Zambia Sugar to stop tax dodging, which launched with the report 'Sweet Nothings' in March. Through a combination of public discussions, lobbying and talking to local people, they have collected thousands of SMS messages supporting the campaign, got the Tax Power animation on national television and been on various radio shows.

Collins told us how Activista and ActionAid Kenya had so many people sending SMS messages to them in support of the campaign that the system crashed!

So how did they manage to collect over 7,000 SMS messages in the last month? They talked to people in informal settlements and rural areas, Activista volunteers talked to people in traffic, getting them to sign petitions and send SMS messages, and they travelled around as a 'caravan', giving out information and speaking with the people they met on the road. They also had a special guest, famous musician Juliano, who helped to get the attention of young Kenyans. They've already seen progress on tax in Kenya: the Kenyan government has exempted some commodities from the recent VAT raise.

These success stories energised everyone for the afternoon's creative sessions. Once we'd filled out a timeline of Tax Power plans for next year, we delved into brainstorming how we can frame the campaign to give it a strong, exciting identity. 

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We built on these ideas and presented our creative concepts, so that we now have a fat portfolio of ideas for exciting Tax Power campaign activities!

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After dinner, we started up our evening sessions.  These included a lively discussion on digital security for activists - something that is increasingly important, especially in regions that face extreme police crackdowns on protests and activism -  and a session on internal planning methods, looking at tools such as Google docs. 

All in all, a good day! Catch you tomorrow for more updates on the Activista Forum 2013.