The Zambian authorities have decided to introduce a tax on phone calls made from the internet. A decision, according to the Zambian government, to protect conventional telecommunications companies. But the announcement goes wrong among the population and several voices are already rising to criticize this measure.

The project of the Zambian government provides for a tax of about three cents, taken daily on phone calls via the internet.

To justify this decision, the spokesman of the government, Dora Siliya, points to the increase in the number of calls over the Internet at the expense of traditional phone calls. According to her, online telephony services such as Skype, Whatsapp or Viber threaten the telecommunications industry and employment with telephone operators in Zambia.

Many activists in Zambian civil society consider it a restriction of freedom. This is the case of Richard Mulonga, the head of the NGO Bloggers, who denounces a deliberate attack on freedom of expression and association. Opposition leader Hackainde Hichilema also reacted and described the new tax as « flying in broad daylight ».

Economic justification

Des accusations rejetées par le ministre zambien des Communications. Ce dernier affirme que cette taxe ne concerne qu’une petite partie de la population. Selon lui, il y a trois types d’acteurs sur le marché des applications mobiles et tous ne tirent pas de bénéfices, explique Brian Mushimba.

« First, yourself. You make these calls via the internet at a very cheap cost. There is an application to help you. And this application that you downloaded for free on your phone makes you this service because the company that created it sells your data. The third player is the government with the telecom companies in the country. They invest heavily in infrastructure: fiber optics, broadband, antennas, to make these calls possible. And they are alone to bear the costs. You use us as a drive belt and you pay nothing to the authorities while using our infrastructure built through huge investments. Internet companies need to sit at the table as we begin to discuss the deployment of 4G. So we can do it together because they benefit from it. »

According to a local study of the ZICTA, which is the Communication Technology Authority, 80% of Zambians prefer to call from the internet. The tax could bring loan of $ 22 million to the state coffers. This bill will become reality within 30 to 45 days, according to the minister.