Ah well. If you thought the WTF news out of Africa was only limited to Nigeria, then you though wrong. Africa really is a country, we just don't want to hear
white people say it. Because all our leaders pretty much act the same.
Yesterday, the Ugandan parliament approved and passed the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill. The bill includes a tax on social media usage, which means Ugandans will have to pay money to the government on days that they access social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Viber, Skype etc.
That's right. President Yoweri Museveni is making his own people pay money - 200 shillings (N20) per day - to use the internet. Because if we're honest, social networks also constitute the internet for many people, with Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter being the most popular apps.Why is he doing this, you ask? To "curb gossip online" and (this is probably the more honest answer) to raise billions of shillings in government revenue. The bill goes into effect in July.
This new measure is in response to Museveni's letter to the treasury in March, claiming that idle talk on social media was costing the country much-needed time and income.
Telecom companies providing data used for accessing over-the-top (OTT) networks will be liable to account and pay excise duty on the services, so you know they'll only be too glad to carry the user along in paying the taxes. Uganda's finance minister Matia Kasaija also told Reuters the tax plan will help "maintain the security of the country and extend electricity so that you people can enjoy more of social media, more often, more frequently."
For a country with only 22% internet penetration, these added costs will be reductive. This isn't the first time Uganda has taken steps to interfere with people's right to the internet. In February 2016, Uganda blocked Twitter and Facebook and mobile money services during an election. A few months later, the government bought an $88,000 pornography detecting machine to "enforce morality" and protect the nation’s cultural values. And they also scan user profiles on social media to find critical posts.
Not going to lie, the only people who use the "if all else fails, blame social media" better than African politicians are African parents. What. The. Hell?
I know many people will look at this and think it's just N20. One, a Ugandan Shilling is 10 kobo, so that amount probably means a lot to low income earners in Uganda who use social media. Two, N20 adds up: if you use social media everyday, that's N600 in a month and N7,300 in a year, and now that amount means a lot to you too. Three, it's not very smart to tax social media, because, and work with me here, it is not the reason your country is not moving forward.
Also please don't give the Nigerian government ideas, we're in a very fragile equilibrium as it is.