Since the Ugandan government announced two months ago that it would start charging a daily fee of 0.04 euros for social media use, Ugandans have wondered how to pay it. Today this rate comes into effect and the situation is still unclear.
At midnight, social networks were closed. Whoever does not pay can no longer get free access.
And many Ugandans have downloaded VPN apps, the technology that allows them to work online with more privacy and bypass details such as location, to avoid paying what they see as “ridiculous fees”.
On May 31, the Ugandan Parliament approved the new Social Networking Act which provides for a daily tax of 200 Ugandan shillings (0.04 euros and 0.05 dollars) for users of platforms containing content in “live broadcasts” (live broadcasts), i.e. social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram or even WhatsApp.
The question was how the Uganda Tax Authority (URA) will get the more than 62.5 million euros it expects to collect in the 2018/2019 fiscal year with this new tax.
“We have had meetings with the Ministry of Finance, but to date I can’t confirm how the fees will be collected,” Ian Romanica, deputy director general of the URA, told Efe this week.
“It is a new rate and we were not prepared for it, but we will have to consult with key stakeholders to avoid double fees,” Romanica continued.
Despite the uncertainties, the URA has one thing clear: Today the tax begins to be collected, and it will be the phone companies that will do it.
The three major operators, Pan-African Afriquel, India’s Airtel and South Africa’s MTN, have published a joint prospectus with the new rates to be charged in three modes: €0.044 per day, €0.3 per week or €1.32 per month.
“Isn’t this going to increase if the tax is not paid, which could result in very low taxes?” , said researcher from the main Ugandan University, Makerere, Richard Cymbala, in an interview with Effie.
Their concerns that this new rate will affect businesses, in the field of health or farmers who use the network to sell their products.
In the 2016/2017 fiscal year alone, Uganda recorded more than 1.5 million new mobile phone registrations, putting the number of mobile phone users in a country of 34.5 million people at 23.6 million, according to data from the Uganda Communications Commission. (Union Carbide Corporation).
Moreover, the Internet penetration in the country is 45.4%, with a year-on-year increase of 68.4% in the number of Internet subscriptions in the same fiscal year.
For residents, the concern is no longer just about money, but because it involves interfering with their freedom of expression.
Fred Mweema, a Ugandan lawyer, suggests that instead of charging users, they charge social media owners, because their earnings come from advertising in all countries, including Uganda.
The lawyer suggests: “If the government is afraid of confronting Facebook and other tech giants for charging fees, it can try to find a solution with other East African countries or with the African Union to address the problem.”
The new law, before being approved by parliament, was proposed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who said social media carried “rumours”.
Although no African country has taken such drastic measures to combat rumours, there have been changes in neighboring countries, such as a new law to combat “cybercrime” in Kenya, which provides for prison terms of up to two years and fines for anyone who spreads a liar. or misleading information.
Also this month, Tanzania forced all online content creators, bloggers and YouTubers, to register with the authorities and pay a license of more than $920.
Fines for working without this license can be up to $2,180 (about 1,785 euros) or even prison terms of up to a year.
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