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ARCT shuts down Smart Burundi over ‘tax arrears’ and expired licence

6 Sep 2022

The Agency for Regulation and Control of Telecoms (Agence de Regulation et de Controle des Telecommunications, ARCT) in Burundi has reportedly shut down mobile network operator (MNO) Smart Burundi over its failure to settle its tax arrears and the expiration of its operating licence on 27 July. The ARCT requested Smart to cease all operations on 18 August at which point it reputedly owed around USD3.2 million in arrears. Further, the regulator noted that whilst Smart had filed to have its licence renewed in March this year, its failure ‘to provide the certificate of non-accountability requested by the Burundian Revenue Office which must confirm that the telecom company owes nothing to the tax authorities’ meant that its concession subsequently lapsed.

The beleaguered company has hit back, however, and in an interview with media outlet Iwacu, Jean-Marie Lacroix, commercial director of Smart, argued that the decision to close the cellco was politically motivated as it benefits one of its competitors, Lumitel – which is owned by Vietnamese Army-backed Viettel and which is ‘suspected of harbouring some members of the regime within its shareholding’. Nevertheless, the ARCT upholds that the measures are appropriate, with Director General Samuel Muhizi also adding that even if it resolves its financial situation, Smart Burundi may not be able to continue to operate. ‘Renewing your operating licence after the network has closed is a real obstacle course. The presidency gets involved since this requires a presidential decree, among other things,’ he is quoted as saying.

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