• Marta's Story

    Posted by Salome

    29 April, 2014

    If you’re like me, you don’t know much about Ghana. You’ve most likely retained enough from your geography classes to know that it’s located somewhere in Africa (I’m sure your teachers are very proud), but that’s probably the extent of your knowledge. 

    Well let me introduce you to Ghana, and a hard-working woman named Marta who lives there.

    Ghana in recent years has done much in an attempt to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The number of people going hungry in the last two decades has been reduced by 75%, and primary school enrollment has risen to almost 80% amongst both girls and boys. Ghana is seen by many as a “model for economic and political development”(1), yet it still has a long way to go to end poverty.

    Women are 70 times more likely to die in childbirth in Ghana than in Britain, and children are 13 times more likely to die before the age of 5. Overall, Ghana ranks 130 out of the 169 countries in the UN Human Development Index. (2)

    One of the key ways that Ghana has managed to reduce the poverty rates in the last few decades is not mainly through aid, which is a popular conception, but through taxes. Regardless of whether a country is rich or poor, taxes are recognised to be “essential to sustainable development” (3) and can be seen as payment for the building blocks of our civilisation. They are our schools, our roads, our hospitals, our police force and the foundation for the infrastructure that our businesses depend on. 

    Image courtesy of Jane HahnImage courtesy of Jane HahnMarta is a business owner who relies on this infrastructure to survive. She owns a small beer and food stall where she and her three employees work 14 hour days; they start preparing food at 6:30 a.m. and only finish around 8pm. For all this hard work, Marta makes a profit of around $400 (Gh¢500) per month. This, along with her husband’s salary, must pay for living expenses and the education of her two children in an economic climate which Marta says is difficult as “people have no money to buy things.” (4) As a taxpayer, Marta pays two fixed income tax fees a year, which together comes to around $85 (Gh¢1.25). 

    Marta gets her supplies from the Accra brewery, which located so close to her that it shadows her stall. Accra brewery is part of SABMiller, the world’s second-largest beer company, churning out 21 billion litres of beer each year, with an annual turnover of $21.5 billion and profits of $3.6 billion. (5)

    Now, I don’t know about you, but whenever people quote statistics that number in the billions, an interesting thing happens to me. The figure is so high, the amount of wealth so obscene, that I can’t really picture it. There is a certain threshold where numbers are simply beyond my comprehension. But what I find even more difficult to comprehend about this story, is that Accra brewery has paid $0 in tax in the last two years. Astonishingly, Marta has paid more tax than her supplier, a multi-billion dollar business! (6)

    “Wow. I don’t believe it,” was Marta’s response on hearing this. The Ghana government is tough on stallholders who don’t pay their tax bills. “We small businesses are suffering from the authorities – if we don’t pay, they come with a padlock,” says Marta. (7) Yet the amount of tax lost in Africa is enough to put a quarter of a million children in schools in the countries where SABMiller operates alone. (8)

     It is a huge injustice that through tax dodging, companies like Accra Brewery are able to legally find pathways that ensure that they aren’t paying their fair share in the countries where they operate. 
    We have an opportunity this year, to Shine the Light on how the modern tax system is detrimental to the lives of the world’s poorest. 

    We have an opportunity, to “speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, for the rights of all who need an advocate.” (Proverbs 31:8)  We are biblically mandated to speak up for women like Marta, adding our voice to the call for greater transparency and accountability will have profound effects on her life, and the life of thousands like her. 

    For more about Marta's story and other stories of tax dodging and corruption click here,


    ​Salome Nel is the 2014 Communications Intern for Micah Challenge.

    Statistics and quotes for this blog posts were taken from the 2012 Calling Time Report published by ActionAid.
    (1) p.14  (2) p.14 (3) p.12  (4) p.16  (5) p.12  (6) p. 7  (7) p. 16 (8) p. 32  (9) p.12