The Democratic Republic of Congo is scrapping its widely criticised device registration tax (Registre des Appareils Mobiles / RAM) from 1st March.
TeleGeography reports that the DRC first implemented a device registration programme in September 2020 as it sought to address issues including theft and the rising market for counterfeit devices. The scheme obliged customers to register their device’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number with the Regulatory Authority of Post and Telecommunications (Autorite de Regulation des Postes et Telecom / ARPTC).
The regulator then collected an annual fee directly from customers, while blocking numbers that failed to register or pay the tax. The amount was calculated using legislation introduced in March 2020, with the rate initially set at US$1.00 for 2G devices and or US$7.00 for 3G and 4G+ devices, although the levy for 2G devices was dropped in October 2021.
The rates set for the monthly payments attracted widespread criticism given the incredibly low monthly ARPU in the DRC, which in Q2 2021 was US$3.16. The levy for 2G devices was collected in monthly instalments of US$0.17 with a final payment of US$0.15, while for 3G+ devices the rate was five payments of US$1.17 and one of US$1.15.
Other issues surrounded the tax collection, with users complaining that their funds were diverted towards the levy ahead of other monthly payments such as mobile money services. Meanwhile, advocacy groups have noted that the government has not published figures on how much money has been collected via the tax or how the proceeds are being spent.