Telephony mobile users in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are calling on the authorities to remove the Mobile Device Registry (RAM), a controversial new tax that they claim is robbing them of their units and making them poorer.
In June 2020, the DRC government made a decision to set up – through the ICT, Post and Telecoms Ministry – a CEIR system (Central Equipment Identification Register), with the aim to fight fake devices and the theft of mobile devices.
In terms of RAM, mobile operators are cutting a big chunk of units monthly from their customers’ mobile devices, which many users believe is too high and unnecessary.
Tension has ever since been mounting nationwide about the controversial tax. On Monday 3 May 2021, several protestors who were gathering in Kinshasa to protest against the controversial tax were arrested, leading to a violent confrontation and running battles with the security forces.
The march was the initiative of the National Movement of Consumers (MNCL), a civil society group that lobbies for the interests of consumers.
“This is too much, I can’t take it anymore. I only made one single call from all the units I bought this morning and when I wanted to make another one, I got a message that my balance is low. This RAM thing took it all,” Esther Muadi, an Orange user, complained to BizTech Africa this week in the capital Kinshasa.
Following the ongoing tension and heated debate in the media about the tax, the ICT, Post and Telecoms minister was summoned to Parliament to explain to the House why, among others, a simple registration of mobile phones has been transformed into a tax.
“This tax must be cancelled. It’s creating problems for mobile users. It is worse if you have two or three mobile phones and you are using up to three lines. We are already poor and this RAM thing is making us poorer,” Airtel and Vodacom subscriber Celestin Mabiala said.
“We call on Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde and the telecoms minister to take into account the relentless complaints of the population,” Georges Kampiamba, the head of ACAJ, a civil society movement, said.
Many observers believe the RAM process is tainted by a huge degree of opacity, and allege that it is another ploy by the president and the government to “steal” from the people in order to enrich themselves.
Barely two years into his presidency, Felix Tshisekedi is already being contested by the majority of the population, who claim that the cost of living has risen since he came to power.