By Nation Reporter
AFRICAN governments should exempt taxes from the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector if benefits are to be realised, says Nigeria’s chairperson for Affordable Internet, Johnson Omobola.
Ms Omobola observed that government taxes were hampering the ICT investments at birth, hence the need to remove the revenue.
“Government taxes are killing ICT investments at birth. Investments need to be spared taxes at the point of investment if benefits such as job creation are to be realised,” she said.
She was speaking at the 2016 African Development Bank (AfDB) annual meetings in Lusaka where leaders were discussing how to harness the ICT revolution to build a ‘Smart Africa’.
Panelists were Johnson Omobola, chairperson for Affordable Internet and Joseph Mucheru, Kenya’s cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communications.
Others were Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT; Thierry Zomahoun, the chief executive officer of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences; and Hamadoun Toure, chairperson of the International Telecommunications Union.
And Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Ambassador Claver Gatete who reiterated his country’s exception to collecting taxes from ICT.
Ambassador Gatete, however, said it was incumbent upon governments to build enabling environments to harness the ICT revolution.
“Rwanda is an exception on this. We actually don’t collect a single penny on IT imports because it is part of our long-term strategy to promote the sector. We are talking about lives being saved and jobs being created here,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary Mucheru said the ICT revolution presented an opportunity for African countries to make lives easier for its people.
“ICT is not an option for Africa. It is a must. The ICT revolution presents us the opportunity to leap-frog and make lives easier for our people,” he said.
While ICT received no opposition as an investment priority, an argument was made that African overnments were under pressure from their own people to provide what they regard as more important services such as roads, medicine in hospitals, and building new classroom blocks.
However, members of the panel countered his view, arguing that investing in ICT has a positive trickle down effect on other sectors such as education, roads and hospitals in form of easing and expediting service delivery to citizens.
The 51st annual meetings of the AfDB are being held in Lusaka, from May 23-27, 2016, under the theme, ‘Energy and Climate Change.’