This tax on social media can’t prevent Ugandans taunting their leaders
20 July 2018
The net remains the only safe place for dissent – but President Museveni would rather silence critics than address their issues
On the morning of 1 July, Ugandans woke to find they could not read their WhatsApp messages, scroll through the chitchat on Facebook and Twitter, or post a picture of their Sunday lunch on Snapchat.
The east African country’s new social-media tax had taken effect. To access any of the more than 60 online platforms listed as “Over The Top (OTT)” – chosen by the government because they offer voice and messaging services – they were expected to pay a tax of 200 Uganda shillings (4p) a day. This translates to about £1.20 a month, or £14.60 a year, in a country where nearly a quarter of the population lives on less than £1 a day.
President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for the last 32 years, says the tax is needed to generate revenue to turn the impoverished country into a middle-income one by 2020. He reasons that social media is simply a place for idle gossip. What he really means is that the millions of people who use social media in Uganda – many of them young, unemployed and discontented with a government that offers no real prospects for their future – are making it hard for him to display a show of democracy and progress to the international world.