By Gracious Madondo
Zambia has become the first country in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and second in Africa, after Uganda, to impose a fee on mobile internet calls made on social media sites such as WhatsApp, Skype, GoogleTalk and Facebook.
In a statement recently, Zambian government spokesperson Dora Silica said the tax on internet calls will be made to protect telecommunication companies and the jobs of telecoms workers.
“Increased popularity on internet telephone services threatens the telecommunications industry and jobs in companies such as Zamtel, Airtel and MTN. Government has therefore introduced a 30 ngwee (US$0.35) charge a day on Internet phone calls,” Siliya said.
The Zambian government spokesperson said the fee will be collected by mobile operators.
This policy, which is yet to become a law, follows Uganda’s recent decision to impose a 73 cents daily levy on social media sites - Facebook and Twitter - which was met by widespread protests from users.
Zambia and Uganda’s moves follow actions by other governments like Morocco which blocked mobile internet calls and later lifted the ban in 2016.
The tax on internet phone calls is set to contribute to the increase of data charges in Zambia.
In contrast, Zimbabwe recently lowered the cost of data tariffs across all network service providers after completing a cost modelling exercise for telecommunication networks in the country.
Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) did not tax or ban internet calls but instead lowered the cost of data setting a standard that saw the lowering of data and phone calls in the country.
In a statement, Potraz said it remodelled data charges because of changing consumer behaviours and the evolution of technology that is leaning more towards databases more as compared to voice-calls.