Social Networks

Taxing technology: Why this African trend can pull back connectivity gains

There is a country-wide uproar in Uganda after its parliament passed the Excise Duty Amendment Bill, which has caught the world’s attention as a move that could curtail not only freedom of speech but the gains the country has made to make internet affordable for all.

The law compels users of social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook and Twitter to part with a daily fee of approximately US$ 0.05. In addition, mobile money users will pay 1 percent excise fee on all transactions (this has now been reduced to 0.5 percent).

Even in the midst of great opposition from social media users in the country, a growing trend is being witnessed in Africa from internet shutdowns to imposition of taxes on various technology tools. Whether the reason is to create new revenue streams for government or to fight fake news fuelled by social media, the move to impose tax on technology seems not to be informed by the benefits of making such tools cheaper and more accessible, but by desperation. Tanzania, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda are the latest countries to have an onslaught against the use of social media and blogging.

The Kenyan government has increased the excise fee on all mobile money transfers from 10 percent to 12 percent. There is also legislation that would see internet bloggers and ICT practitioners register with a government body and pay a yearly fee to use any IT tool.

Tanzania has already passed and implemented its version of Kenya’s registration of internet users. One of the biggest online news site, Jamii Forums, had to shut down due the implementation of the new law, Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2018 that looks to charge US$930 for certification for all bloggers and content generators online.

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Vincent Matinde

Vincent Matinde is an international IT Journalist highlighting African innovations in the technology scene.

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