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DRC’s Register of Mobile Devices Tax has been a Source of Frustration for Many

Finally, it seems as if there might be reprieve for Congolese who have been frustrated by the Register of Mobile Devices (RAM) tax that many feel has no tangible benefits for them. Once a government decree made on Feb. 18 is implemented, Congolese will be safe from this tax. The statement reads, “this draft text is a response to the cries of distress of the Congolese people in the face of the withdrawal of their communication units and to the relevant recommendations of the National Assembly”. Each telephone user in the DRC must make a monthly payment depending on the type of device one uses. This cost comes to $0.17 per month for 2G phones and $1.17 for 3G/4G and above. This money is automatically taken out from phone credit or mobile money in each user’s phone. This amount isn’t negligible in a country where 73% of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day. There are however proponents of the tax. Jeff Kaleb, a former Congolese journalist who is now RAM’s ambassador to the media and the community says, “It’s a fee to stop the circulation and sale of counterfeit or stolen phones.” As of December 2021, this tax had brought in about $266 million according to the Observatoire de la Dépense Publique (ODEP), a Congolese NGO, with 40% going to public treasury, 30% to SC energy, the service provider, 25% to the ARPTC and 5% to the mobile communication companies.  In the recent past, many African countries have come up with even more ways to tax the digital sector, be it a social media tax in Uganda; proposals in Nigeria and Zimbabwe to tax Netflix, Google, YouTube, and Amazon; and rising mobile money taxes in several countries.