Telecom companies operating in Nigeria have come together to decry the National Assembly’s plans to introduce a new Electronic Communications Services Tax. Senator Ali Ndume (not surprisingly, a proponent of the infamous anti-Social Media bill) sponsored the bill, which has gone through first reading in both chambers of the National Assembly.
If passed, it means that both service providers and end users will pay 9-15 percent more taxes/tariffs for electronic communication services like voice calls, SMS, MMS, internet data (OTT), and even Television viewing. And it’s not limited to those; the bill specifies “communication through the use of wire, radio, optical or electro-magnetic transmission emissions or receiving system”.
The different associations (why are they so many?), Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) are of the opinion that the consumers at the bottom of the pyramid will bear most of the brunt and that will affect the adoption of (and by extension, investment in) mobile services.
“Mobile industry investment in Nigeria is already constrained by multiple level of taxes and fees set by local and regional authorities, in addition to fees to the national telecommunications regulator and high costs of right of ways. In a context of declining average revenue per user, this can make it more difficult for mobile operators to make a business case for investment.”
I’m inclined to agree. Accessing the internet in Africa is still more expensive than everywhere else in the world (well, except maybe Cuba), and any reasonable person will set their sights on lowering the barrier to entry. Mark Zuckerberg said last year, that “for every 10 people who are connected to the internet, (at least) 1 person is lifted out of poverty and 1 job is created”.
What’s worse? I’m almost certain that any money gleaned from these frivolous taxes will not be put to any reasonable use. Why? Because the past is as good an indication of the future, as any. Then again, I’m not sure what else to expect from a National Assembly that spends their days debating about how many women to marry.
Sigh. It’s going to be a long day.