Communication, Science and Technology deputy minister January Makamba has given two weeks to Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority to talk to mobile phone companies on ways to increase tax contributions and improve services.
Makamba stressed the need for the companies to increase their contributions to the government revenue kit, noting that payments were low compared to other East African countries.
According to him, the communication sector in Tanzania contributes only 2.5 percent of the GDP while in Kenya it is 9 percent and Uganda 5.2 percent.
“We are not getting enough money from mobile phone companies…there should be a way to increase its contribution to the national income,” Makamba said when addressing TCRA staff during his tour of the authority headquarters in Dar es Salaam yesterday.
Elaborating, he said what the companies pay to the government is too little compared to the revenues they collect and taking into account that the number of mobile phone users has increased tremendously.
He directed TCRA to appoint, through tender, a private company to monitor the mobile phone companies operations in the country, instead of relying on information’s provided by the company themselves.
He said information from mobile phone companies shows that a total of 20 billion minutes were dialed last year, adding: “We cannot rely on data and information from these companies because we are likely to be cheated. We need to track everything by ourselves.”
Makamba said through monitoring it will be easy to know the exact number of dialed minutes and revenues collected so as to increase the government income.
On the quality of service, the deputy minister said mobile phone companies should state clearly to TCRA the steps they are taking to improve services.
He said mobile phone users face a lot of problems including poor network coverage, extra deduction of credit and frequent advertisement messages from the companies.
He said Tanzanians buy mobile phones to enjoy services and not otherwise. He said it is very unfair for the companies to spend a lot of money on promotions and fail to invest in infrastructures.
“They do promotions and win more customers. Why are they not investing to improve services?” he wondered.
He warned that there will come a time when companies will penalised for provision of poor services like in other African countries.
He however insisted on the importance of coming up with policies and laws that protect mobile phone users who make money transactions through cellular networks.
He said TCRA and the Bank of Tanzania should discuss how to protect such people because there are some who deposit millions of shillings in their SIM cards.
For his part, TCRA Director General, Prof John Nkoma said most of the existing policies are outdated, calling for revision in order to have uniform policy that covers all requirements.
Prof Nkoma said TCRA has registered a lot of successes including the increased number of mobile phone subscribers from less than 300,000 in 2003 to 26 million, while SIM card registration was almost 90 percent. “We are making progress because 59 percent of Tanzanians have mobile phones and use internet services. We hope to have over 70 percent people using the services in next three years”, said Prof Nkoma.