As citizens prepare to work from home in accordance with guidelines to curb the COVID-19 outbreak, the Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ZACCI) has asked the country’s telecom sector regulator and the government to immediately suspend all taxes on data and voice communication services.
ZACCI president Chabuka Kawesha said the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) and the government should suspend all taxes on these services in order to make it cheaper for the business community to operate from homes.
Kawesha said Airtel Zambia, MTN Zambia, Zamtel and all ISPs should expect a sharp increase in data usage due to social distancing and travel delays, and as such the government can provide help in the forms of relief on the cost of communications services.
He added that once taxes are suspended, operators can then reduce the cost of the services to customers.
“The wheels of industry have to continue turning at this critical moment resulting from the pandemic, we have to send our workforce to operate from homes where in many cases the necessary data installation is not available other than on hand-held devices,” said Kawesha.
Zambia’s Minister of Communications and Transport Mutotwe Kafwaya said, “The government in consultation with ZICTA and the Zambia Revenue Authority will look into the matter and see if it’s possible to do so.
In a statement, MTN Zambia CEO Bart Hofker said the operator will soon make available free messaging for all its customers as a contribution to the fight against COVID-19.
He said to support families who are working and schooling from home, the operator offers affordable data bundles.
Hofker said the operator has put contingency plans in place to keep the network running smoothly in view of the expected increased demand.
“While we are facing a challenging time with the spread of COVID-19 in Zambia, staying connected has never been more important. We recognise that customers are relying on our network to connect with family, friends, colleagues, educators and emergency services.”
Last week, Zamtel CEO Sydney Mupeta said, “We will continue to take whatever coordinated actions are necessary to support and adopt other precautionary approaches to enhance both national and global efforts in fighting the pandemic.”