Blogging has been popular in Africa for more than a decade, enabling writers and independent journalists to report news, express views and analyze situations that might not otherwise appear in mainstream media. But as of last month, this type of jobbing will come with a price tag in Tanzania and Uganda.
With the aim of regulating online activities and generating government revenue, the President of Tanzania, John Magufuli, issued a decree instituting yearly charges for all blogging activities. Uganda is also following the trend. No one knows which Africa country will follow next.
Internet taxing in Tanzania and Uganda
Recently, Tanzania’s President issued the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations. These regulations demand that bloggers pay over USD 930 per year as registration fee for online publishing.
The new regulations, apart from the financial obligation, has far-reaching implications on the human rights of freedom of expression. Bloggers are expected to fill out official regulatory forms and avoid publishing prohibited content. These include among others, nudity, hate speech, explicit sex acts, extreme violence and fake news.
A similar scenario is playing out in Uganda.
Starting from July 2018, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, wants to institute a social media tax. This will include a daily price of 200 Ugandan shillings ($0.05) to mobile phone subscribers using social media services including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc.
Apart from his intention of raising billions of shillings in government revenue, the tax is also aimed at curbing online gossiping.
“We’re looking for money to maintain the security of the country and extend electricity so that you people can enjoy more of social media, more often, more frequently,” Uganda’s Financial Minister Matia Kasaija told Reuters.
After taxing blogging in Africa: What fate for African bloggers?
Despite the challenges Africans have getting online, blogging on the continent has enjoyed explosive growth, helping to shape a positive African narrative in recent years.
Over the years, the internet has been a source of job creation for so many Africans and beyond. It has also become a reliable source of income for many startups.
— Teri Sprackland (@Sprack_Land) April 13, 2018
The idea of taxing bloggers might be plausible, considering the needs to generate more government revenues.
However, it becomes problematic when such taxing is discriminating and un-proportionate. For example, instituting a uniform tax of USD 930 as yearly blogging charges in Tanzania is un-proportionate and discriminating.
Because income generated by different bloggers are never the same. And most certainly, will never be.
There are possibilities of more African leaders embracing this new trend of taxing blogging in their various countries. This might sound good as a revenue generating strategy. But its un-proportionality makes it appear more of an internet regulation strategy.
If such regulations spread across Africa, there are high probabilities of young African startups folding up and rendering young Africans unemployed.