After 10 days of mobilisation with more than 500 000 people being affected by the social media tax, the government in Benin have decided to cancel the tax. The government passed the decree in late August taxing its citizens for accessing the internet and social media apps reports Mail & Guardian. It taxed the use of Over The Top services like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.
Mylène Flicka, an Beninese activist, working on IRAWO, a digital media platform spoke to The Daily Vox about the decree and the cancellation of the decree. She said the decree came into place on September 19, despite protests from the people. There was a 5% fee on texting and calls.
After the day of peaceful sit-ins on the International Peace Day on September 21, the president of Benin convened a meeting with the service providers and associate ministers. After the meeting, an official statement was issued calling for the cancellation of the taxes.
Flicka said, “We are very happy to have been heard but this victory is above all a proof of the strength of the social media and a proof of the power of a mobilized youth. We remain vigilant and we will never lower our guard over our freedoms again.”
If the decree had passed, Benin would have joined other African countries that have introduced fees which restrict access to digital spaces. This year alone, the governments of Zambia and Uganda approved taxes. In Zambia, the taxes were on internet calls while Uganda introduced a tax for accessing websites and social media apps.
On Friday, the activists hosted peaceful sit-ins all around the city. They used the hashtag #TaxePasMesMo (Don’t tax my megabytes). They also connected to international organizations in charge of internet freedom, like ISF (Internet Without Borders).
The directive which was first proposed in July, institutes a fee of 5 CFA francs ($0.008) per megabyte consumed through services like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. According to advocacy group Internet Sans Frontières it introduced a 5% fee, on top of taxes, on texting and calls. Mail & Guardian