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by Ismail Akwei, at 09:00 am, September 10, 2018, Tech & Innovation

Benin copies stupid move and becomes first West African country to tax internet usage

Benin president Patrice Talon

West African country Benin has joined the likes of Zambia and Uganda to impose taxes on internet usage despite a backlash against the move announced since July.

The government passed the law in late August and according to advocacy group Internet Sans Frontières (ISF), Benin citizens will be taxed 5 CFA francs ($0.008) per megabyte used through social media apps, and another 5% levy on texting and calls, reports Quartz.

The taxes have been described as senseless and a move to silence critics in the country with a population of a little above 10.5 million and a minimum wage of about 40,000 CFA francs ($70.56) per month.

Over 7,000 people have signed a petition calling for the suspension of the levy which will not favour the mass poor population which is slowing getting hooked onto the internet.

Benin is the latest African country to go through with the internet tax plan after Zambia which has approved a tax on internet calls in a bid to protect telecommunication companies who are losing money.

The government collects the taxes through mobile phone companies and internet service providers at a daily rate of 30 ngwees (3 cents) per day, irrespective of how many internet calls are made, reports Quartz.

There were complaints of higher data charges and the introduction of the taxes could cripple the economy and further reduce the mobile internet users.

It all started in Uganda where the government ignored protests and imposed a mandatory 200 shilling daily levy (less than a dollar) for WhatsApp users while mobile money transactions also attracted a one per cent levy on the total value of each transaction.

In a bid to control what he called gossip and to rake in more revenue to the state, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni announced the taxes in April and it was approved by the parliament in May.

It is expected to raise between $108,000,000 (Sh400 billion) and $270,000,000 (Sh1.4 trillion) from social media users annually, the government said.

Ugandans, have, however, expressed disgust at the development, saying it infringes on individual freedoms.

Others are also wondering how social media companies that do business in Uganda will be taxed since internet access is not based solely on the activation of data bundles through the purchase of airtime from telecoms.

For some lawmakers, instead of taxing social media, the president must pay attention to the fight against corruption in government.

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