In Summary
  • The introduction of the tax has raised a storm across the country, with many Ugandans bashing the government for what they said was a deliberate move to deny many citizens access to information.
  • When asked what progress had been made, Mr Val Oketcho, the MTN spokesperson, said he was not privy to any discussions between the UCC and the telecom operators.

Kampala. Government has agreed to review the progress of social media tax after two weeks of implementation.
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and all telecom operators met today and agreed to review the progress and devise a way forward.
A tweet from the official UCC twitter handle read; “After 2 weeks, the Commission together with @URAuganda, telecoms and Ministry of Finance will meet to evaluate the progress of Social Media Tax.”

When asked, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC executive director, confirmed the development.
“Yes, we reached an agreement with URA, telecom operators and the Finance ministry that we review the process after two weeks. We are also exploring other options to make sure the payment is cheap for the users. However, the bottom line is that the social media tax will stay,” Mr Mutabazi said.

He said contrary to the speculation that everyone has been blocked, it is only those who have not paid the taxes.
Mr Mutabazi said those who have installed the VPN services are incurring more costs to install the services instead of paying the nominal tax.
He also said the regulation is done within context of government policy and industry developments.
“As a regulator, we seek to facilitate national development while protecting consumers and encouraging fair competition,” the UCC boss said.

Storm
The introduction of the tax has raised a storm across the country, with many Ugandans bashing the government for what they said was a deliberate move to deny many citizens access to information.
A section of the public has installed virtual private network (VPN) services to bypass the taxes.
Mr Mutabazi had said the commission has facilities in place to block the VPN services.

However, by press time yesterday, many users were still using VPN.
It is understood that the commission has now asked the telecom operators to block access to VPN, an order that may not be easy to enforce since the service softwares are on Google store and windows App.
When asked what progress had been made, Mr Val Oketcho, the MTN spokesperson, said he was not privy to any discussions between the UCC and the telecom operators.
He promised to get back to us, but had not by press time.
Both Airtel and Africell were not available for comment.

fdraku@ug.nationmedia.com