Zambia is targeting to raise $22 million annually after the implementation of a new tax regime that will tax internet phone calls, VoIP.
On August 13, the Zambia cabinet approved on a $0.03 daily tariff charged on VoIP calls. The country’s Transport and Communications Minister, Brian Mushimba said the government had taken into account the concerns put forward by telecom companies opposing the move.
He went on to say a “quick realization by government that that is a huge revenue loss that comes with internet calls.”
The Information Minister, Dora Siliya announced the cabinet’s approval to tax VoIP calls saying the move was aimed at protecting jobs in the telecommunication sector. Zambia has three telecom operators; the state-owned Zamtel, MTN, and Bharti Airtel.
Siliya further said that 80% of Zambians use OTT apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber to connect with family and friends. As they migrate from making conventional telephone calls, it means the telecom companies are losing revenues. While at the same time, the government is losing revenue since they cannot get much tax from the profits made by the telecoms.
The said levy would be charged via the telecom operators and internet service providers in the country.
The move by the Zambian government to impose a tax on VoIP calls has elicited sharp criticism and opposition. There are already activists in the country up in arms in opposition of the taxes calling on the government to reverse its latest tax regime as it equates to clamping down freedom of speech.
“It is a major threat to freedom of expression, access to information, media rights, freedom of assembly online, and an affront to the employment of digital rights,” read a joint press statement by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zambia and the Bloggers of Zambia.
The called on the government to instead invest more in the ICT industry to ensure more