Togo’s new tax on incoming international calls angers consumers

By Issa Sikiti da Silva

A new tax on incoming international calls imposed by the government of Togo has angered consumers and generated a heated debate in this tiny West African nation, where the ICT products are already costing an arm
and a leg.

The cost of all incoming international calls have been increased by 25 FCFA per minute since early January and this new tax, which is called 'Taxe sur l’Interconnexion Téléphonique Internationale' (TITI), is aimed at funding part of the universal health insurance in this impoverished nation of about six million people. Togo has one of the worst healthcare systems in West Africa.

The government says the money will be collected by foreign operators and paid back to Togo.

“This is daylight robbery at its best,” Emmanuel Gakpé said in the capital Lomé. “We are tired of this government which continues to pile up hardship on its people.”

“This TITI, or whatever it is, will put pressure on many family members who live outside Togo and may force them to stop calling us regularly,” said Fatima Touré, whose two brothers live in France.

Togo is said to have a considerable population living outside its borders, and the World Bank said early this year that the country’s diaspora sent US$348 million (10% of the country’s GDP) as remittances in 2014.

Speculation is rife in the capital Lomé that the government wants to use the TITI money to fund part of the country’s elections, which are said to have been delayed due to a shortage of funds.

“My sisters’ money will fund no bloody elections, which I’m sure will be rigged,” said Kouassi Emmanuel, who has two sisters living in Europe, adding that he wished TITI funds were invested to develop the ICT sector instead.

“We need to stand up and fight for our rights. It’s time to mobilise our people in an effort to stop the government from further robbing us.”

Telephone operators have so far kept quiet about TITI.

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