The hut tax was a type of taxation introduced by British colonialists in Africa on a per hut or household basis. It was variously payable in money, labour, grain or stock and benefited the colonial authorities in four related ways: it raised money; it supported the currency (see chartalism); it broadened the cash economy, aiding further development; and it forced Africans to labour in the colonial economy. Households which had survived on, and stored their wealth in cattle ranching now sent members to work for the colonialists in order to raise cash with which to pay the tax. The colonial economy depended upon black African labour to build new towns and railways, and in southern Africa to work in the rapidly developing mines.
By 1908 the following hut taxes were imposed in southern Africa:
In Mashonaland, now part of Zimbabwe, hut tax was introduced at the rate of ten shillings per hut in 1894. Although authorized by the Colonial Office in London, the tax was paid to the British South Africa Company, the agent of colonial government in the area. Coinciding with confiscations of cattle, the introduction of forced labour and a series of natural disasters, the tax probably contributed to the Shona part of the rebellion against the colonialists in 1896, known as the First Chimurenga or Second Matabele War.
The tax was also used in Uganda and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). In Sierra Leone it sparked the Hut Tax War of 1898 in the Ronietta district in which substantial damage was sustained to the establishments of the Home Missionary Society. The damage sustained by the Society led to an international tribunal over Great Britain's responsibility, brought by the US on behalf of the Home Missionary Society.