Malawi’s government aims to increase network access for internet usage to 80% of the population from the current level of 14%, and device ownership from 51% to 80% by 2026.
This is according to the Malawi Digital Economy strategy (2021-2026), prepared by the National Planning Commission (NPC).
Authorities said access to affordable internet will enable the country to protect the environment while achieving urbanisation and industrialisation in line with Malawi 2063 agenda.
Affordability is said to be the biggest barrier to the uptake of mobile services, with the cost of devices prohibitively expensive – especially for rural residents.
The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) claims about 14% of Malawians use the internet.
The government intends to phase out the 10% excise duty on data and text package purchases, as well as the 3.5% imposed by MACRA on the turnover of ICT service providers.
Authorities confirmed that by removing taxes and excise duties, device costs will be lowered by 22.5% this year and 15% in the coming year.
It also wants to establish a special purpose vehicle to build a backbone from Nacara in Mozambique to Lilongwe in Malawi, and purchase the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi’s (Escom) domestic fibre.
Commenting on the strategy, Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) executive director John Kapito was quoted by the local Malawi Nations newspaper saying, “We were previously sold a similar strategy but it never materialised. Time has come for our politicians to stop playing politics on crucial economic and social projects. We need to think beyond the five-year term of office and make such policies a reality.”
Last year, civil society organisations expressed concern over the 17.5% VAT on mobile phones, 16.5% on internet services and an additional 10% excise duty on text messages and internet data transfers introduced in 2015.