Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda's prime minister, speaks during an interview in New York, U.S. on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Ruhakana Rugunda
Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda's prime minister, speaks during an interview in New York, U.S. on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Ruhakana Rugunda

Following Wednesday’s protest led by Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu a.k.a Bobi Wine, in a bid to drop taxes on on social media and mobile money, the Prime Minister to Uganda Ruhakana Rugunda has come out and said that the taxes would be reviewed and a new bill will be brought next week.

In a letter dated 11th July 2018 and signed by the Prime Minister, stated that the Government is reviewing the taxes taking into consideration the concerns of the public and its implications on the budget.

“The review is being expedited to ensure that Government presents an Amendment of the Excise Duty (Amendment) Act 2018 to this House for debate on Thursday next week (19th July 2018) where Hon. Members will therefore have the opportunity to debate and consult widely to guide Parliament during the consideration and debate of the Amendment Bill,” says Rugunda.

The taxes a part of the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill 2018 that was presented to and passed by the Ugandan Parliament was subsequently assented to by H.E the President of Uganda; Yoweri K. Museveni, and consequently became an Act of Parliament.

The Act imposes a 1% levy on receiving, payments and withdraws through mobile money platforms. In addition, it imposes a UGX200 charge on Over-the-Top (OTT) services per day of access. However, Ugandans can choose to pay UGX1,400 weekly or UGX6,000 monthly.

While these taxes are causing a public outcry amongst Ugandans, a London-based NGO firm focused on human rights; Amnesty International has urged Ugandan authorities to scrap the tax, calling it “a clear attempt to undermine the right to freedom of expression” to Ugandans.

In a letter signed by the President, stated that social media tax is here to stay, while mobile money tax, the 1% was a miscommunication as the actual figure was supposed to be 0.5%. However, the 0.5% the President talks about could be just “words” as it is reported that many Ugandan are still charged 1%.

While Ugandans still protest online with #SayNoToMobileMoneyTax, and #ThisTaxMustGo campaigns, the ICT Association of Uganda also came out and voiced their concern over the taxes, and resolved to support domestic and international efforts to repeal them, including the legal petition that was launched by the Cyber Law Initiative alongside four of its Directors; Daniel Opio Bill, Moses Baguma, Emmanuel Okiror, and Silver Kayondo earlier this month.

In a letter signed by the ICTAU Chairman; Albert Mucunguzi, stated that the taxes were enacted by the Government of Uganda without sufficient deliberation or consultation and are not supported by evidence-based research.

“They will undoubtedly constrain the development of our industry, economy, and society,” says the statement.

The committee said they are engaging the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance together with its agencies Uganda Communication Commission (UCC), and National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) in order to push for a sectoral dialogue to ensure that all future laws and regulations related to Uganda’s ICT industry originate from a predictable, deliberate process that incorporates evidence-based research and public consultation.

“We’re currently awaiting their response, as we will keep you updated.”