Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

Digital Inclusion

MWC Kigali: GSMA's Caroline Mbugua on mobile taxes in Africa

GSMA Director of Public Policy for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Caroline Mbugua, spoke to Connecting Africa Editor Paula Gilbert at MWC Kigali 2023 about how high taxation on Africa's mobile sector is impacting device and service affordability for consumers.

The GSMA's Mobile Tax Policy and Digital Development report for 2023 showed that taxes make up 21% of the cost of a basic Internet-enabled handset, on average, across 36 sub-Saharan African countries.

"The report paints a clear picture that we continue to have a substantial level of high taxes on devices which is creating a high barrier for mobile broadband adoption in the region," Mbugua explained.

In sub-Saharan Africa, a basic Internet-enabled mobile phone costs an average of 44% of the monthly GDP per capita. However, for individuals in the lowest 40% income bracket, this cost amounts to 113% of their GDP per capita, soaring as high as seven times the monthly GDP per capita in a country like Burundi.

"We are calling on governments in the region to reduce or to remove some of these taxes, these are sector specific taxes like excise duties and import duty taxes on mobile devices. Because in markets like Senegal for instance, where we have seen these taxes removed there has been a significant uptick of smartphone penetration in that market," Mbugua said.

"[We are] asking governments to prioritize digitalization of their economies and without smartphones we are not able to achieve this in a sustainable manner," she added.

Mbugua also spoke about how increased levies on mobile money services can be counterproductive and reverse the progress of financial inclusion and ultimately reduce government revenues in the process.

"When we have high taxes [on mobile money], consumers react very fast, and we see a significant drop in adoption of these services. What it means is that the progress we had made by making our economies cashless is eroded overnight by these taxes, because we fall back into a cash economy," she explained.

An example of this was in Tanzania, where mobile money transactions dropped 38% per month after a levy on electronic transactions was introduced in July 2021.

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub


AI's impact on African telcos

Many African telecommunications companies are turning to artificial intelligence as a differentiator to improve their mobile networks and enhance customer service and experience as they transition from traditional telco offerings into new tech-first verticals.


Four AI trends to look out for in 2024

Connecting Africa has compiled a list of four artificial intelligence (AI) trends to look out for on the African continent in 2024.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Upcoming events

AfreGov 2024
March 12-14, 2024
Kigali, Rwanda
Africa Tech Festival 2024
November 11-14, 2024
Cape Town, South Africa
More Upcoming events

Sponsored video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Africa Tech Perspectives


Uber's Marjorie Saint-Lot on inclusion and sustainability in Africa

Uber's Country Manager for Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire, Marjorie Saint-Lot, shares how the ride-hailing company is approaching public-private partnerships, environmentally friendly initiatives and gender inclusion in Africa.


The 100 most influential African leaders in 2023

A new report from Africa Tech Festival and Connecting Africa puts a spotlight on the top 100 African leaders in the telecoms and technology sector in 2023.


Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.

More Africa Tech perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: January 2024

By Omdia Analysts

Highlights in January 2024 in the Middle East and Africa included a $200 million fintech deal between MTN and Mastercard as well as 5G network trials by Telecom Egypt – that and more in this month's Omdia View.


Omdia View: September 2023

By Omdia Analysts

Highlights in September 2023 in the Middle East and Africa included more 5G spectrum licenses, vendor and operator strategies, and partnerships – that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up
Tag id test-002