African Countries Shooting Themselves In The Digital Foot By Imposing Taxes And Levies On Internet Use

from the how-not-to-do-it dept

Techdirt has written a number of stories recently about unfortunate developments taking place in the African digital world. The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI ) site has usefully pulled together what's been happening across the continent -- and it doesn't look good:

A4AI's recent mobile broadband pricing update shows that Africans face the highest cost to connect to the internet -- just 1GB of mobile data costs the average user in Africa nearly 9% of their monthly income, while their counterparts in the Asia-Pacific region pay one-fifth of that price (around 1.5% of monthly income). Despite this already high cost to connect, we're seeing a worrying trend of governments across Africa imposing a variety of taxes on some of the most popular internet applications and services.

The article goes on to list the following examples.

Uganda

imposes a daily fee of UGX 200 ($0.05) to access social media sites and many common Internet-based messaging and voice applications, as well as a tax on mobile money transactions.

Zambia

has announced it will levy a 30 ngwee ($0.03) daily tax on social network use.

Tanzania

requires bloggers to pay a government license fee roughly equivalent to the average annual income for the country.

Kenya

aims to impose additional taxation on the Internet, with proposed levies on telecommunications and on mobile money transfers.

Benin

imposed a 5 CFCA ($0.01) per megabyte fee to access social media sites, messaging, and Voice-over-IP applications, causing a 250% increase in the price for 1GB of mobile data.

The article explains that the last of these was rescinded within days because of public pressure, while Kenya's tax is currently on hold thanks to a court order. Nonetheless, there is a clear tendency among some African governments to see the Internet as a handy new source of tax income. That's clearly a very short-sighted move. At a time when the digital world in Africa is advancing rapidly, with innovation hubs and startups appearing all over the continent, making it more expensive and thus harder for ordinary people to access the Internet threatens to throttle this growth. Whatever the short-term benefits from the moves listed above, countries imposing taxes and levies of whatever kind risk cutting their citizens off from the exciting digital future being forged elsewhere in Africa. As the A4AI post rightly says:

Africa, with the largest digital divide of any geographic region, has the greatest untapped potential with regards to improving affordable access and meaningful use of the internet. With affordable internet access, African economies can grow sustainably and inclusively.

Sadly, in certain African countries, that seems unlikely to happen.

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  • identicon
    Pixelation, 3 Oct 2018 @ 10:18pm

    Good with the bad

    I'm not certain it would be such a terrible thing for people to use social media less.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2018 @ 4:23am

    Edit

    "Africa, with the largest digital divide of any geographic region, has the greatest untapped potential with regards to improving affordable access and meaningful use of the internet."

    Africa, with the largest oversight divide of any geographic region, has the greatest untapped potential with regards to increasing fraudulent taxation and malfeasant abuse of the Internet.

    Fixed!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Del Varner, 4 Oct 2018 @ 8:48am

      Re: Edit

      Indeed, if something can be taxed and the revenue diverted into Swiss bank accounts, it will be. Especially in the S|-|1hol3 countries.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2018 @ 4:46am

    Are they trying to raise money, or to stop people organizing against the government?

    Some of those taxes look more like reserving the Internet for the elite, and protecting their position by pricing it out of the range of people who might get organized to reduce their power..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 4 Oct 2018 @ 6:50am

      Re:

      Are they trying to raise money, or to stop people organizing against the government?

      More the latter than the former I suspect, though the extra money will most certainly be welcome.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2018 @ 5:07am

    Africa has a very low average income, taxing bloggers or the use of social media is an attack on free speech.
    Or else its saying only middle class people can have free speech.
    The internet is one of the main ways young people communicate and express themselves .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 4 Oct 2018 @ 5:58am

    Maybe Africa is on to something

    If social media is what is tearing the fabric of society apart, maybe the US should charge $1000 / day to access social media. For the same reasons there are high taxes on cigarettes. Just sayin'

    If I have never and will never create a FaceTwit InstaWhats account, can I get a tax credit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2018 @ 6:46am

      Re: Maybe Africa is on to something

      As someone pointed out in a comment above, it shouldn't be up to the government to decide that or force people to use it less.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2018 @ 7:04am

      Re: Maybe Africa is on to something

      It's not social media tearing anything apart, it is the age old human nature that continues to tear apart what some have tried to construct.

      The seven deadly sins are alive and well. Even though many at the top of the wealth class deny they are susceptible, they are in fact the most guilty.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2018 @ 7:40am

    Run a 419 scam, get taxed 50% of the value you claim is involved. No need to tax the rest of the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 4 Oct 2018 @ 9:25am

    These aren't people they're taxing. They are bottomless revenue generators.

    Just ask the record and movie industries.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jim P. (profile), 4 Oct 2018 @ 10:45am

    Corruption

    "That's clearly a very short-sighted move."

    Nope. Most of those bozos know exactly what they are doing. Keeping their people in ignorant servitude is exactly what they want and keeping the masses away from the Internet is high on that agenda since people can all too easily find out that their particular little slice of heaven (according to their masters) isn't all it is claimed to be.

    A corrupt government fears an educated populace and even more a populace that can communicate widely with each other and the outside world.

    And there seem to be few governments more openly corrupt than those to be found in sub-Saharan Africa these days taken as a whole.
    https://www.transparency.org

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 4 Oct 2018 @ 1:57pm

    And in the USA??

    My cellphone is 5% of my monthly money..
    Internet is almost 10%..
    basic, power/water/gas over 30%
    rent would be over 50%(but I own it)
    Food is around 25-30%

    And a person asked me how to solve the poverty level...I told them GIVE EVERYONE A HOME..it helps.

    My problem is the thought of, WHERE did these folks ever learn about taking advantage of each other?? Being socialist was their BASe for along time..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2018 @ 3:57pm

    African countries shooting themselves in the foot by getting rid of white people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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