How Is Zambia Protecting Traditional Telecom Companies?

According to recent reports, Zambia will tax phone calls made over the internet to protect traditional telecoms companies.

The increased popularity of internet telephony services like WhatsApp and Skype threatens the telecommunications industry and jobs in operator companies like Airtel, MTN, etc. Therefore the government has introduced a 30 ngwee charge a day tariff on internet phone calls.

The policy which is yet to become a law, follows Uganda’s recent decision to impose a $0.05 daily levy on social media sites including Facebook and Twitter which was met with protests by opponents.

These apps offer end to end encryption of calls, mobile phone carriers and internet providers can tell that a voice or video call is being made even if they can’t listen to the conversation through the volume of data consumed.

The internet has become important for civil society in Zambia, and activists worry the tax will curtail freedom of expression.

According to communication minister Brian Mushimba said that the levy on internet calls was purely economic.

“We don’t believe in stifling the media, we believe in freedom of expression and this decision is purely an economic decision because we have lost income and so we are saying if Skype, WhatsApp are making money, how about us?”

Human rights activist Brebner Changala said that the fee would unnecessarily burden ordinary Zambians to swell state coffers.

“These people want to continue curtailing our freedoms… we all know they are broke but we ask them to allow us to express ourselves without any charge. Let them leave our freedom,” Changala told AFP.

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