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Uganda Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Back with New Social Media Tax

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Social Media Tax Uganda

On May 23, Ugandan President Yoweri K. Museveni told attendees at the Blockchain Africa Conference in Kampala, that he is supportive of blockchain technology and that Africa was ready for the digital age. His remarks suggested that he is keen on placing Uganda on the map as a tech hub in the region, which attendees at the conference applauded and widely considered as a step in the right direction. However, only a few days later, Uganda’s took two steps back in the development of their digital economy by introducing a new social media tax.

The “Gossip Tax”

Starting July 2018 Ugandans will have to pay a daily tax on social media apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp due to a new law that was passed by parliament. Rights activists have spoken up against it saying it will be used to stifle free speech. They said it is an attempt by President Museveni to prevent opposition to his presidency.

President Museveni had written to the finance ministry in March saying, “I am not going to propose a tax on internet use for educational, research, or reference purposes…these must remain free. However, olugambo (opinions, prejudices, insults, chats) on social media and advertisements by Google and I do not know who else must pay tax because we need resources to cope with the consequences of their lugambo [gossip].”

Despite the government’s claim that it is an attempt to prevent “gossip” and fake news, what is ironic, however, is that it comes after Bobi Wine a musician turned opposition politician became a member of parliament through an online campaign. The move by the government has been viewed by opposition leaders as “diversionary, deceptive, injurious to individual freedoms, and burdensome.”

A tax of 200 shillings ($0.053) a day on users of so-called “over the top” services which publish content bypassing traditional distributors. “The government is trying not to over-rely on donor funding. It is just a redistributive tax as the government is out to look for money from those who have to finance projects,” Parliamentary spokesman Obore told CNN.

The tax was passed on May 29 and would be levied daily by mobile phone operators on each SIM card used to access any of the targeted social media platforms with over two and a half million Ugandans being active on Facebook. Unfortunately, this adds on to Ugandans’ burden as data costs in Africa are already among some of the highest in the world.

The Ugandan government has since stated that they are looking for income in order to maintain security and extend electricity in the country. The chairman of the Budget Committee of Parliament has stated that it is a wise move in order to sustain the revenue collection in the country. However, despite the law being passed and implemented in just under a month’s time, there is no clear sign as to how the tax will be collected.

In many countries across Africa, laws are being passed or waiting to be passed that aim to control the way social media is being used. Unfortunately, Uganda is not new to this. During the elections in 2016, the government blocked both Twitter and Facebook and suspended unlicensed news sites.

To what extent this law will impact Uganda’s development as a budding technology hub remains to be seen but what is clear is that charging Ugandans who are looking towards the Internet and the digital economy to earn a living, this tax is a slap in the face.

Bitcoin

Nigerians Have Invested Over $5m in Cryptocurrencies Despite Regulator Warnings Says KureCoin Hub

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Nigerians Invest in Cryptocurrencies

Nigerians have invested over five million US dollars in the cryptocurrency market in the last couple of years according to data from Nigerian cryptocurrency platform KureCoin Hub.

The data shows that Nigerian retail investors are investing heavily in the cryptocurrency market despite warnings from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) against investing in an unregulated market.

KureCoin Hub’s co-founder and CEO Tega Abikure has criticised the stance regulators have taken and argues that the country will lag behind as other countries that enjoy the benefits of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Abikure told New Telegraph:

“It is not a matter of whether the government likes it; it is about whether they need it. I am not sure the internet was liked when it first came. […] It is not a matter of whether they are going to embrace it; it is about when they are going to do so.”

Abikure observed that other countries such as Uganda and South Africa have already taken steps towards adopting blockchain technology while Kenya is pushing forward with a functioning blockchain taskforce.

“Nigeria is being left behind,” he noted.

The Blockchain as a Source of Foreign Direct Investments

Abikure also believes that blockchain technology could be a major source of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) in the next five to ten years. In addition, he is of the opinion that a lot of money is being made in cryptocurrencies on the continent with most of it leaving Africa’s economy.

On one of the benefits of blockchain technology, he said: “[The blockchain] is completely transparent and cannot be changed; it can be used to create a decentralised system of payment where the taxpayer had an unhindered access to the collector which is the government. It enhances revenue collection and removes the challenges of remittances.”

Blockchain technology can also improve the banking sector, the electoral process, the use of donations in charitable projects, and the supply chain, among many other use cases.

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Blockchain Technology

vCargo Cloud to Implement Blockchain-Based Electronic Certificates of Origin in Kenya

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Blockchain-Based Electronic Certificates of Origin

Fintech company vCargo Cloud (VCC) has partnered with the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) to roll out blockchain-based electronic certificates of origin (eCOs) in Kenya to modernise a vital part of the country’s trade facilitation processes. The eCO platform by VCC utilises the blockchain, which will make it easier for various stakeholders to authenticate certificates.

Speaking of the partnership, VCC said that the partnership with KNCCI is proof that their blockchain-based platform is disruptive and allows for instant verifications of the eCOs, which results in improved efficiency, security and transparency in the authentication of trade documents. The move also comes after VCC unveiled a similar blockchain-based solution in Singapore in May.

An electronic certificate of origin (eCO) is an international trade document that certifies that goods in any given shipment have been manufactured from said country. Customs and traders usually request for eCOs in order to verify goods while banks request the same, among other documents, that are used in any trade finance transaction.

In an interview with GTR, Desmond Tay, VCC’s CEO said that their blockchain-based platform would be slightly tweaked to the needs of the KNCCI but it is similar to the one in use in Singapore. He went on to say: “After the success in Singapore, we have been trying to bring the blockchain eCO solution to other places around the world. We are in discussions with a few chambers in Africa and Southeast Asia and expect to see further expansion soon.”

Kenya was the next launch country for VCC seeing that they have an office in Nairobi according to Tay. VCC is also in talks with several other countries in East Africa as well as chambers in Japan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka regarding implementing its platform in those countries.

VCC is, however, not the only company rolling out blockchain-based solutions that are meant to boost trade in the African market. Two months ago, IBM Research, in partnership with Twiga Foods, launched a blockchain-enabled microcredit solution to offer loans to informal and small businesses within Nairobi. Blockchain startup Wala and trade platform Black Commodities have also joined efforts to unveil a cryptocurrency product financing solution that will provide 50,000 small-scale farmers in Africa with loans worth $10 million.

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Altcoins

Akon to Launch Cryptocurrency Akoin to Build “Real-Life Wakanda”

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Akoin
By U.S. Embassy Nairobi [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Senegal-born singer and philanthropist Akon is set to launch a cryptocurrency called Akoin. The cryptocurrency will be available for sale in two weeks.

“I think that blockchain and crypto could be the saviour for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people and brings the security back into the currency system and also allows the people to utilise it in ways where they can advance themselves and not allow government to do those things that are keeping them down,” he said during a panel discussion at Cannes Lion 2018.

The singer has powered 18 countries in Africa using solar energy through his project Akon Lighting Africa. The project has impacted African communities through the creation of jobs and the installation of 100,000 street lamps, 200,000 household electric systems, and 1,000 solar micro-generators.

Akoin will be the foundation of the Akoin Ecosystem, a universal project that offers real-life platforms and opportunities for youth entrepreneurs by enabling them to purchase, spend, and hold cryptocurrency.

Akon’s Crypto Wakanda

According to Akoin’s website, the cryptocurrency will also be used in an entirely new way when consumers visit the real-life Wakanda of Akon Crypto City.

The city will be constructed on 2,000 acres of land gifted to him by the Senegalese President. The city will be a blend of “leading Smart City planning designs with a blank canvas for cryptonising our daily human and business exchanges, with the goal of inventing a radical new way of existence.”

When asked technical questions about blockchain technology, Akon said:

“I come with the concepts and let the geeks figure it out.”

Akon has joined the list of celebrities embracing cryptocurrencies and the blockchain such as Lionel Messi and Ashton Kutcher.

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