Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook may be reconsidering its proposed investments in Uganda’s infrastructure as a form of reprisal to the now infamous social media tax law abrogated and recently implemented by the Ugandan government.
WeeTracker reported early last month that following significant push from President Yoweri Museveni, the tax on ‘Over-The-Top-Services’ which was first proposed in March this year, was implemented on July 1st, in a move which the government believes will help curb online gossip.
Although the country’s finance ministry has been quick to roll out the numbers which indicate that a sizeable USD 1.8 Mn has been raised since the implementation of the daily USD 0.05 levy for access to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Whatsapp, LinkedIn and the likes, the decision has not gone down well with the Ugandan populace with many citing an infringement on rights to freedom of expression and access to information. Some tech-savvy Ugandans have even resorted to the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) as a way of getting around the daily levy. Protests have been rife and voice raised against the tax law which has been labeled as “borne out of bad faith” in many quarters. And social media giants, Facebook, might just be getting in on the act.
Through Kojo Boakye, its Public Policy Manager for Africa, Facebook is reported to have notified the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) of its intent to discontinue plans to develop the country’s infrastructure and shift investments elsewhere, as they would not be immune to the daily social media tax imposed on locals.
Godfrey Mutabazi, Executive Director of the UCC, however, refutes this claims while affirming that although he had indeed met with Facebook officials for a discussion which revolved around the social media tax, there were no indications of the social media giants taking their investments elsewhere. He may also have hinted at Facebook not withdrawing their investments from some parts of Europe where social media usage is currently being taxed.
Plans are currently underway to enable free internet access in all of Facebook sites spread out across 42 African countries. This service, which will be issued under the auspices of the Free Basics initiative, is expected to provide free access to Facebook and associated sites to mobile phone users. In any case, Mr. Boakye remains tight-lipped on the specifics of the development while reiterating that drastic measures will only be taken after dialogue with the Ugandan government on the subject; a process that is believed to be currently underway.
Image courtesy: Nairametrics