Lobby group the Mobile Operators Association of Tanzania (MOAT) has warned that the government’s decision to levy a TZS1,000 (USD0.62) monthly charge on every SIM card in the country, may affect up to eight million mobile users in the country. The association argues that the tax, which was implemented from the start of this month, is likely to impact most on poor Tanzanians who cannot afford the charges, and further, that the plan is contrary to the state’s goal of improving access – particularly in poorer rural areas. Currently, more than 22 million Tanzanians own a mobile phone, but MOAT estimates that around eight million of them use less than TZS1,000 on mobile communications per month. Whilst the group understands the government’s need to access funding for various development initiatives that target the poor, the proposed tax is, in its opinion, contrary to this spirit because it threatens to penalise the very people who are the focus of these development initiatives, and who rely on this service to improve their lives.
MOAT goes on to argue its case that whilst future mobile expansion in Tanzania is most likely to come from rural areas – currently less well served by the incumbents – the TZS1,000 per month tax on usage will only serve to deter further expansion into remote parts of the country as poorer Tanzanians will be put off using mobile services. As such MOAT is calling on the government to re-consider the controversial tax to help promote further growth of the telecommunications sector in the country.