Rwandan Students Debate On Tax Justice

Sixteen students from eight universities across Rwanda today convened at Umubano Hotel to test their knowledge on tax matters as part of engaging the youth on key development issues such as illicit financial flows, domestic resource mobilisation and inequality.

The teams participating in the first-ever Rwandan Student’s Debate were drawn from the faculties of Law and Economics. The debate is set to become an annual event, with the top two teams representing the country at the East African Students Debate later in the year.

The two-day debate was organised by Governance for Africa in collaboration with Tax Justice Network Africa.

Robert Gisa, project development officer at Governance for Africa told Taarifa that they want to engage the youth in the matters of tax justice, so that they can contribute to a better future.

“We have different issues such as illicit flows, sustainable development goals and tax investments and incentives,” Said Gisa.

Leonald Wanyama, coordinator for East Africa Tax and Governance Network

He added that the criteria for selecting participants were the faculties they offered such as economics and law departments. So they invited those schools and the ones that confirmed attendance are the ones that are participating today.

Divine Gakwaya student a faculty of Law student representing the University of Rwanda said that participating in this debate is a great opportunity for them because it is happening for the very first time and “we are learning from different people coming from outside the country working in the tax justice organisations who have many different ideas to share with us.”

Gakwaya further said that not only will they learn from others, but they will also ‘open up’ and share what they think can improve taxation in Rwanda. In her view, one of the things that the country needs to develop is a better tax system.

Jackson Musinguzi from the Kigali Institute of Management (KIM) said,“ some good ideas are really being brought up from different colleagues. I think the entire session will be awesome because depending on the current situation it is really enjoyable and we appreciate those who organised this tournament for us.”

Leonald Wanyama, coordinator for East Africa Tax and Governance Network said, “We have to figure out what East Africa really needs in terms of tax justice and what message and conclusion we are going to chart.”

Wanyama said that the issue of illegal financial flows whereby a lot of money is being taken out of the continent to the West whether through tax havens is a big issue.

A study by Global Financial integrity, “Crime, corruption, tax evasion drained a record US$991.2 billion in illicit financial flows from developing countries in 2012”, shows that Sub-Saharan Africa still suffers the largest illicit outflows as percentage of GDP.

Illicit financial flaws (IFFs) occur in a range of forms from profit-shifting, lack of transparency, financial secrecy, and lack of clarity about beneficial ownership and inadequate reporting of payments in the extraction sector.

Kigali Institute of Management(KIM) has the best debaters in the country; The institute scored the highest points in a Student Debate on Tax Justice.

The final results released on Wednesday indicated that KIM scored 62.1% in the debate competition held at  Umubano Hotel in Kigali.

All participants were awarded certificates, but top winners are also eligible to participate in another regional debate expected to take place later in the year.

According to judges, all the teams performed well since this was the very first time such a debate was held in Rwanda.

One of the judges Joyce Mukarugwiza, a lecturer at the University of Kibungo told Taarifa that criteria for awarding points included; “whether the students mastered the content on the three topics that they were given, the styles and strategies used while presenting ideas, and the rebuttals; how the debaters came back to their competitors.”

Scoring 62.%, KIM University debate representative Jackson Seyanga Musinguzi said; “I am so privileged, so grateful, so happy for this great competition but more so having emerged among the best, I cannot forget to thank organisers of this debate.”

According to judges, all the teams performed well since this was the very first time such a debate was held in Rwanda.

Seyanga believes that when organisers maintain the same spirit, it will enable “us as young Rwandans and Africans to express our ideas that can contribute to the socio-economic transformation of our countries and the whole East African region and the entire continent at large.”

Hope Kyarimpa also from KIM University could not hide her excitement after winning. She is a fourth year student in the faculty of procurement and logistics; “I was not surprised because I had really prepared for this debate.”

After winning, Kyarimpa said she still has to improve her research skills to be able to beat other debaters because the most difficult aspect of the debate for her was “proving to the opponent with statistics and relevant sources and examples.”

Arafat Deo Irakoze who represented the University of Kibungo told Taarifa that in his point of view, the topics discussed in the debate showed him that many people do not know about taxes and illicit financial flows.

“I think there is time to start sharing everything we know with the entire world starting from our respective universities.”

However, he said that because of the limited time the debaters were given, he could not manage to express arguments that were so many.

Score Points by Participating Universities

1. Kigali Institute of Management (KIM): 62.1 %
2. University of Kibungo (UNIK): 58.8 %
3. University of Lay Adventist of Kigali (UNILAK): 56.6%
4. University of Rwanda (UR): 56 %
5. Institute of Higher Education Ruhengeri (INES): 54%