The rise of digital financial services has attracted growing attention from governments in Sub-Saharan Africa seeking to raise tax revenue.
In the context of global concerns around how governments can tax the digital economy and fintech, we evaluate recent debates over mobile money taxation in Africa as fundamentally political, rather than technical matters. We assess in depth three such debates, in Kenya, Uganda and Malawi. In doing so, we draw on a critical reading of recent political economy literature on taxation, state-business relations, and the ambiguity of financial inclusion. Our research highlights how political questions about tax materialize as technical ones, how governments’ tax bargaining is influenced by business interests, and how the ambiguity of financial inclusion allows qualms over adverse effects on financial services to frustrate and supersede other policy concerns.