The controversial mobile tax (RAM) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been scrapped only for the second generation (2G) devices, the government said last weekend.
The majority of subscribers (75%) still use second generation phones, the government added. Successive attempts to verify this figure failed, as free access to information in this Central African nation is almost impossible in a country where democratic principles shine only on paper rather than in practice.
The other devices, including 3G and 4G, will continue paying RAM, a tax the government said was necessary to fund, among others, free education.
“The Post, Telecommunications and ICT minister is in charge of carrying out the decision as soon as possible, ” the government said in a statement released after the end of the cabinet meeting presided by President Felix Tshisekedi.
A huge outcry followed immediately after the decision, which provoked anger among mobile users.
“We have no political leaders in this country, instead we have a group of thieves in suits disguised as statesment,” university student Alain Mayo told BizTech Africa on Monday, as frustration mounted across cities, towns, markets and churches.
“Despite the fact that he was killing and starving our people, Kabila is much better than Felix. He never said beforehand that RAM was introduced to fund free education. It is pure nonsense and a scam fabricated by the regime to get rich at the expense of the population,” unemployed graduate Alfred Djunga said.
The controversial mobile tax has already generated $25 million, according to the government, a figure contradicted by ODEP, an NGO, which put the number at $266 million. Calls to set up a commission of inquiry have fallen on deaf ears as the government turns a blind eye.
Initially introduced to boost the registration of mobile devices, fight counterfeit phones and help trace stolen phones, RAM’s popularity has been dropping considerably, as the majority of the population calls for it to be scrapped.
The government said in September that it would equip no less than 112 sites with a free Wifi connection thanks to RAM by December 2021, an initiative described by analysts as populist and unfeasible.