Over the weekend, people, young, affluent and everything in between marched in solidarity. Although the march was less about the taxes and more about the safety of Ugandan women, it was hosted just in time for the implementation of a landmark legislation. One that permits the Ugandan government to charge taxes on Social Media users. The law was announced earlier in June and came into effect on the 1st of July. According to a report by CNN, the taxes are for the purpose of raising money to reduce dependency on donor aid.
The United States is said to be the largest single provider of health assistance to Uganda. According to The Daily Monitor, they spent 488.3 million dollars in 2017.
How about some quick Math?
According to the CIA World Fact Book, there are 9.54m Ugandans with internet access.
The Social Media Tax is a daily charge of 200 Shillings, the equivalent of 50 United States Cents.
If we assumed those stats to be accurate; if at least 7 million Ugandans paid this said tax, the government would be able to raise just a tenth of only part of the aid they receive to date.
In the first 12 months.
Kampala based Internet Freedom Advocacy group CIPESA (Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa) made a thread on Twitter with some alarming figures; referring to the ‘Over the top Tax’ as a direct attack on Freedom of Expression in Uganda.
Part 1: The cost to connect for #Uganda’s poorest will jump by 10%, resulting in just 1GB of data costing them nearly 40% of their average monthly income. The richest Ugandans will experience an increase of 1% in their cost to connect! @A4A_Internet
— CIPESA (@cipesaug) July 1, 2018
In a survey on social media, it was indicated that several Ugandans who have not been able to pay the daily Shs200 have found VPN the ultimate solution to bypass paying the daily excise duty charge on Over-The-Top (OTT) services, and have taken to social media to bash government. – The Daily Monitor
African governments seem to be making Social Media oriented laws their go to in controlling the civic power of the platforms. Just this year Tanzanian bloggers were slapped with $958 registration fees despite that GDP per capita is a good 80-bucks lower than the fee at $878 a year.
As we draw closer to the Zimbabwean Elections, should we be wondering what’s on the way? What then happens to our right to discourse and expression, political, creative or otherwise?