Malawi: citizens demand reduced mobile, internet fees
Civil rights organisations in Malawi have urged authorities to reduce the cost of internet connectivity and mobile phones.
The organisations, including Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Youth and Society and Rights Education Programme as well as Collaboration on International ICT policy for East and Southern Africa, argue that new measures introduced by government to curb the spread of COVID-19, including suspension of public gatherings and workshops, means that mobile connectivity will play a critical role in e-commerce, e-learning etc.
In a joint statement, the organisations expressed concern over 17.5% value added tax (VAT) on mobile phones, 16.5% on internet services and an additional 10% excise duty on text messages and internet data transfers introduced in 2015.
According the organisations, a monthly data bundle of 10GB costs MK15, 500 through Airtel and TNM, and this equates to approximately half the monthly income of the average Malawian.
They want the government to review taxes applied to the ICT sector.
“The result of these taxes is that access to the internet is extremely expensive for average Malawians putting the majority of the population which is poor and rural based at a huge disadvantage and shutting them out of access to crucial services like mobile banking, access to relevant content and information as well as access to essential communication platforms that could lift them out of poverty,” said the organisations.
Following a report published in the Visual Capitalist online publication which indicated that Malawi is by far the most expensive country in terms of mobile data costs, TNM plc head of brand marketing communications Louis Chipoya denied the company has expensive data bundles.
The government has not yet commented on the issue.