Museveni tells the poor: Ain’t got no mobile money? You got life
4 months ago, 11 July 14:52
It has been an angry week in Uganda. Citizens are furious at their government for coming up with new taxes, which, as it happens, are not payable by everybody.
They are not, for example, like value-added tax, which is so difficult to avoid. Only people who use mobile money services and those who own phones that allow them to be active on social media platforms must pay.
If one neither sends cash to anyone via mobile money services nor receives any, the new tax is irrelevant to their day-to-day existence.
If one has a cheap phone that they can’t use to access social media and if they have never connected to any platform and know nothing about Facebook or WhatsApp, the tax is equally irrelevant to their day-to-day lives.
And even if one is in the habit of using mobile money services, truth be told, the tax can be avoided.
They could simply drop the habit and look for other ways of transacting whatever business they have been transacting via mobile money services.
If you’re a social media addict and can’t bear to be off WhatsApp or Twitter, all you have to do is moderate or kick your addiction.
Easier said than done, I know.
And here is where things get interesting for detached observers, and potentially complicated for the Museveni government. Reducing one’s use of social media may be easy, but not mobile money transactions.
Mobile money users in Uganda, as elsewhere in the region, have grown tremendously in number. The ubiquitous mobile money kiosks and the number of mobile money agents everywhere one looks in Kampala and its environs, and even upcountry, testify to the popularity of the service. And so when the tax on transactions came, it was bound to hit a large percentage of the population up and down country.
We are not talking of only the well-to-do urbanites who talk a lot but who rarely do anything tangible to demonstrate their anger. They are notorious for not voting. Nor do they do political activism. This time, the poor have also been hit.
It is probably too early to tell how they will react.
One thing is certain, though: The rural poor whose better-off relatives send them modest amounts of money via mobile for food and other needs, are a key Museveni constituency.
They include women whose husbands have migrated to towns to look for work, leaving them behind to look after the children and whatever assets they may have.
One way that these wives of poor rural-urban migrants survive is through the modest funds their husbands send through mobile money.
As with the rest of the rural poor, women are a key Museveni constituency, for historical and other reasons.
So how will they react to portions of their modest remittances being chopped off by the government in the form of taxes, in addition to the fees telephone companies levy on transactions?
There are two views about this: One is that support for both President Museveni and his party, the National Resistance Movement, may plummet farther if ...
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