Social Media Tax in Uganda Shockingly Sees Increased Number of Mobile Internet Users


UgandaUganda’s ICT watchdog the Communications Commission (UCC) has published the quarterly sector report for Q4 2018 that is from September to end December 2018. The story is interesting because the country has been under scrutiny as far as internet services are concerned.

This was after President Yoweri Museveni, and his advisors introduced social media tax sometime in May 2018, which effectively made it mandatory for people to part with slightly more than KES 5 or 200 Uganda shillings to get access platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

The move was made to manage the space that was apparently littered with ‘gossip’ and ‘laziness’ activities.

A few months after the development, several publications reported that the tax had come at the expense of revenues for the landlocked East African state. It was reported that more people were shying away from online social platforms, as well as a similar trend in mobile money services after an earlier introduction of mobile money tax.

According to data from UCC, internet subscription dropped in Q2 to 9,855,034 from 10,420,125 in the preceding quarter. However, people accessing digital services from their mobile devices rose to 13,569,35 in Q3. Notable growth was also recorded in Q4 at 14,360,847, a 5.8% jump from the previous quarter.

What is more, the number of registered smartphones that partly make up devices used to get access to the internet on mobile rose uniformly throughout 2018, from 4.5 million in Q1 to 5.2 million in Q4. The growth represented an overall 14% jump.

On the other hand, the number of mobile subscriptions in the country has only grown by 0.3 million to 24.3 million in Q4. The report does not specify the exact subscriptions by a carrier as is the case in Kenya.

The value of transactions for mobile fluctuated throughout the year, although the number of mobile money agents grey by 3.5 percent from 163,082 in Q1 to 184,529 in Q2.

Going by these numbers, it is apparent Q2 was hurt by the introduction of the tax, but the reliance of people on social media platforms as sources of news, entertainment, and space for broadcasting their business overcame the extra fees rendered to them by the state, thus a more consistent user profile through Q3 and Q4.