Zambians to start paying for WhatsApp calls

The Zambian government is set to impose a daily tariff on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls made via applications such as WhatsApp, Skype and Viber. According to a statement by government spokesperson Dora Siliya following a cabinet meeting on Monday, increase in the use of internet phone calls threatens the communications industry and jobs. The government has also approved a bill to regulate social media and enhance cyber security, but details are still sketchy.

“Government has, therefore, introduced a 30 Ngwee [or $2.96] a day tariff on internet phone calls. Cabinet has since approved the issuance of a Statutory Instrument (SI) that will facilitate the introduction of the tariff to be charged through mobile phone operators and internet providers,” the statement said.

With the government stressing how important it is for Zambians to continue to make “traditional phone calls” in the internet age, Zambians have wondered what the government is trying to achieve and how it hopes to achieve it, with many reacting in disbelief.

At the cabinet meeting held on Monday and chaired by President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, Siliya said other topics discussed centered on the government’s “policy direction aimed at improving the general living standards of the people through improved service delivery”.

The World Bank had in the Zambia Economic Brief, titled “Raising Revenue for Economic Recovery in Zambia”, issued on 7 December, 2016, advised the Zambian government to increase domestic revenue collections to realize its goal of fiscal fitness. The government had since implemented several strategies to increase tax collection, with the latest one on VoIP calls seen as a desperate move.

The Zambia Revenue Authority last month said it collected K27.7 billion ($2.7 billion) in gross taxes, with refunds amounting to K4.5 billion during the period January 1 to June 30, 2018.