In what can only be described as a pleasant surprise, the government of Benin has decided to reverse its social media tax. The lifting of the social media tax was announced in a statement published by Benin's government on 22 September 2018.
When announcing the tax during the first week of September 2018, the government mentioned that it will require citizens to pay approximately $0.008 (5 CFA) per MegaByte of data used while using apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Instagram and many others.
Credit must go to the people of Benin for taking to the streets and protesting the social media tax in different ways since its announcement. The social media tax, logically, meant that mobile Internet costs became more expensive as it was a fee to be charged over and above the cost of purchasing data bundles to access the Internet.
Social media tax across Afrika
However, just like we've observed in other countries in Afrika like Uganda, it is possible to bypass having to pay the social media tax. In Benin, some citizens resorted to using Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to spoof their location and access social media platforms without being prompted to pay the tax.
Kenya is also looking to introduce a form of tax on Internet access, while in Uganda, the social media tax persists to this day. In neighboring Tanzania, bloggers, and effectively anyone publishing content on the Internet, have to pay an annual fee which most in the country can definitely not afford.
In most cases, these fees and taxes are just a proxy for the incumbent political leaders to restrict the speech of those speaking against them. as, typically, failure to pay the taxes or fees results in either getting no access or heavy penalties like jail time.
We hope, however, that what Benin's government has done, starts trending among other afrikan governments.
Cover image credit: Benin's President, Patrice Talon.