DRC: Tension rises over controversial mobile tax (RAM)
A recently introduced controversial mobile tax (RAM) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to breed anger and frustration among the population, as opposition politicians and civil society describe it as a “state-concocted scam”.
RAM is a government-organised thievery which ignores the interests of the people, Ensemble Pour la République, a political party loyal to Congo millionaire Moise Katumbi, said in a statement on Friday 15 October 2021.
A high-level meeting that took place last week in the capital Kinshasa to seek a common ground aimed at solving the problem ended in an impasse, as both parties (government and opposition MPs) refused to budge.
The government insists that RAM is not going anywhere, while the opposition and civil society groups are calling for the tax to be scrapped.
“RAM must be scrapped because the Congolese people still live with under $1 a day. And therefore, for such a population, you cannot come and introduce additional taxes,” Joël Lamika, national chairperson of MCI, a local consumers network platform, said at a press briefing held on Monday 18 October 2021.
Lamika said the first thing the government should do is to raise the people’s purchasing power before introducing additional taxes.
The DRC is believed to be among Africa’s heavily-taxed countries, an approach experts say discourages entrepreneurship, and often results to the closure of many small businesses.
Initially introduced to serve as a platform to register telephone mobile devices and lock out fake devices, RAM ((Régistre des Appareils Mobiles) has quickly bred anger and desolation among the population who describe it as a “weapon of mass destruction” (WMD).
“RAM is nothing but a WMD, maybe worse. I just bought units for $5 and they stole $3 and left me with $2. It’s a pure daylight robbery,” Nsimba Mbuta, a lorry driver, told BizTech Africa in the capital Kinshasa.
“That’s the only money I had, now what am I going to do? It’s not right what the government and mobile companies are doing to us,” he added.
“Africell is much better. Orange is worse. It must go to hell because it is the devil that was brought here to make us poorer,” lamented university student Cedric Kasongo.
The DRC has the third largest population of poor globally. Poverty in DRC is high, remains widespread and pervasive, and is increasing due to impacts from COVID-19, the World Bank said.
Civil society groups MNCL, Filimbi and LUCHA have given the government 72 hours to scrap RAM. Otherwise, they promised to launch a series of protests.