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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.

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Almost a Quarter of High-Tech Consumers in South Africa Now Own Cryptocurrency

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High-Tech Consumers in South Africa

A new study titled “Digital Lifestyle Measure report” conducted by MBIT found that 23 percent of high-tech consumers in South Africa own at least one cryptocurrency, with bitcoin being the most common holding. 

New Report Shows High-Tech Consumers Hold Crypto

In the”Digital Lifestyle Measure report” report, each level of tech consumer (high, medium, and low) was grouped according to DM segmentation. A high-tech consumer is identified and tagged as a “DLM5 consumer”, and for the low-tech consumers, a “DLM1 consumer” was used. 

To place each of the participants in the right groups, the survey made use of a question and answer (Q&A) method. Each person was categorised according to how well they were able to answer the provided questions. The questions mostly focused on their private digital lifestyle and technological gadgets they own and can operate well.

The result of this survey shows that only six percent of the low-tech consumers (DLM 1) own crypto, while 23 percent of high tech consumers own cryptocurrencies. The remaining percentage was then shared in the order: DLM 2: seven percent, DLM 3: twelve percent, and DLM 4: eight percent.

cryptoThe report also stated that of the DML5 population, about 42 perfect of them are of the notion that cryptocurrencies are here to stay. Same goes for 30 percent of the DLM 4 consumers group.

Conversely, 41 percent of the low-tech consumers (DLM1 consumers) did not know what cryptocurrencies are all about, according to IOL

From the DLM 3 consumer group, about 34 percent of them cannot say what the future looks like for cryptocurrencies but 26 percent of them claimed cryptocurrencies to be the “future of financial transacting.”

The report has further shown that high tech consumers who are continually paying for something electronically, are more likely to buy crypto in the long run.

Based on the google trends data, South Africa currently has the highest levels of interest in bitcoin across the world. Hence, it should come as no surprise that tech-savvy South Africans are the ones investing in digital currencies and tokens. 

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Ecobank Report: Most African Regulators Are Taking a “Wait and See” Approach to Cryptocurrency Regulation

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African Regulators

While there has been a substantial increase in the adoption of cryptocurrencies in Africa compared to three years ago, there has been minimal effort from African countries to try and regulate cryptocurrencies despite their increased use in various African nations according to a new report by Ecobank.

Ecobank tracked “the current state of cryptocurrency regulation in all markets in Sub-Saharan Africa” through the regulatory responses that have been issued by central banks or financial regulators. In the report, the pan-African bank found that most African regulators are taking a “wait and see” approach when it comes to cryptocurrency regulation.

The report stated: “Many African governments and regulators recognise both the risks and the potential positive impacts of cryptocurrencies, and some also appreciate the difference between cryptocurrencies and the underlying blockchain technology. But they have been reticent in authorising cryptocurrency transactions, and mostly remain apprehensive about the potential risks. African countries appear to be looking to their neighbours to regulate and innovate first, and learn from their mistakes, rather than being the first mover.”

The reported noted that the main reason why African governments were being skeptical about licensing the use of cryptocurrencies was their citizens getting overexposed to cryptocurrency investments and there being a future crash that would cause a ripple effect in the broader economy.

African Regulators’ Stance

African RegulatorsOut of the 39 jurisdictions surveyed, more than 21 countries in the region are yet to make a public declaration on the use of cryptocurrencies.

So far, there have been three countries that have taken a stance on cryptocurrency. Namibia tops the list having banned the commercial use of digital currencies. However, South Africa and Swaziland are the only two countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that have adopted “a generally favourable and permissive stance, but without full legality”.

The remaining countries fall somewhere in between and “refuse” to directly regulate cryptocurrencies claiming that bitcoin and other digital currencies “operate in the grey area between legality and illegality” and have issued warnings to their citizens and investors against using or investing in them. The bank also noted that conversations regarding the speculative nature and instability of cryptocurrency prices have overshadowed their benefits and the potential they bring.

The bank went ahead to note: “Unfortunately, the spectacular rise and fall in the traded value of cryptocurrencies has drowned out broader discussion on the potential benefits this new technology could bring. The transformational impact that could be delivered by tokenising products and services on the blockchain has been compared to that of the Internet. Crypto tokens and currencies could enable consumers to transact instantly, cross-border and for free, provide them with KYC-compliant digital IDs, and incentivise their behaviour and change the way they engage with governments & service providers.”

Ecobank will continue to track cryptocurrency regulation in Sub-Saharan Africa and provide regular updates that will reflect the regulation progress in the African nations.

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Paxful Continues #BuiltWithBitcoin Charitable Initiative in Africa with the Construction of a Second School

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#BuiltWithBitcoin

Peer-to-peer bitcoin exchange Paxful announced the newest chapter in its #BuiltWithBitcoin charitable initiative: the construction of a school in Rwanda – for students aged six to fifteen – in the Nyamata Sector of Rwanda’s Bugesera District. This will be the second bitcoin-funded school that Paxful has raised funds for.

bitcoinContinuing its partnership with NGO Zam Zam Water, Paxful has kickstarted the project with a $20,000 donation. The total construction cost of the school is estimated to be $100,000. The remaining balance, Paxful hopes, will be raised through its fundraising campaign.

Donations can be made via Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Dash.  Paxful will match all community donations until the $100,000 goal is met.

“The #BuiltWithBitcoin initiative is a testament to the power of cryptocurrency,” said Ray Youssef, CEO of Paxful. He added:

“We firmly believe that it can improve lives and make the world a better place.”

The planned school is expected to be almost twice the size of the first bitcoin-funded school and will serve up to 300 primary school students upon completion. Furthermore, the school will include a cafeteria, a 35,000-liter potable water well, solar panels for sustainability, and many other resources for the education and enjoyment of students, staff, and faculty, according to a company press release.

“Education is a crucial tool for helping those in developing nations increase their standard of living, so we are very pleased to partner with Paxful to serve these bright young students,” said Yusuf A. Nessary, founder and president of Zam Zam Water. He added:

“This is only a small glimpse into what we can and will continue to do with the power of cryptocurrency.”

Paxful began the #BuiltwithBitcoin initiative in 2017 to promote philanthropy and charity within the cryptocurrency industry. The company plans to construct 100 African schools, as well as donate money for wells and other projects.

To contribute to #BuiltwithBitcoin, send all donations to Zam Zam Water:

BTC (Bitcoin): 3Q5CESP85hhXTLSy2HDbSyNchb5Bi8D7ku
BCH (Bitcoin Cash): 15YGniLxo77kfMUWGoRNT6ShUQC93MvaXg

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