COVID-19 Exposes the Contradictions of Social Media Taxes in Africa

The effectiveness of social media to reach a wide audience has made it a critical medium for many governments across Africa and beyond to provide reliable COVID-19 pandemic mitigation information to millions of people. In some African countries, there are regulations that impose taxes on over-the-top (OTT) services, mobile devices, and mobile money— dampening their uptake and use and undermining the use of these mediums by states to fight the ongoing Pandemic and broader national digital transformation policies. These regressive taxes add to already high data costs, making the Internet less affordable for households and individuals with lower incomes— excluding large segments of the population, deterring new users, and ultimately widening the digital divide. As the continent battles the COVID-19 pandemic, these taxes need to be removed to provide relief to the marginalised, drive digital inclusion, and build future resilience.