Zambia expects to raise $22 million annually in new tax on internet phone calls.
The cabinet approved Monday a 30 ngwee (0.3 kwacha; $0.03) daily tariff charged on online phone calls.
Transport and Communications Minister Brian Mushimba said on Tuesday that the government considered concerns raised by telecom operators.
He added that there was “a quick realisation by government that there is a huge revenue loss that comes with internet calls.”
Information Minister Dora Siliya, announcing the cabinet approval, said the government's decision was aimed at protecting jobs in the telecommunication industry.
The country has three telecom operators; state-owned Zamtel, Bharti Airtel and MTN.
She said about 80 per cent of Zambians are using WhatsApp, Skype and Viber to make phone calls.
The levy will be charged through telecom operators and internet providers.
However, activists in the country are up in arms about the tax and have called on the government to withdraw the tariff saying it clamps down on free speech.
“It is a major threat to freedom of expression, access to information, media rights, freedom of assembly online, and an affront to the enjoyment of digital rights,” a joint statement by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zambia and the Bloggers of Zambia read.
They added that the government should instead consider investing more in the ICT sector to ensure that all citizens have access to affordable and reliable internet.
Last month the government announced that it would introduce new cybercrime laws to regulate social media use, curb hate speech, fight cyber-crime and pornography. On Monday, the cabinet approved the proposed Cybercrime and Cyber Security Bill to be tabled for debate in Parliament.
Misa chairperson Hellen Mwale and the Bloggers coordinator Richard Mulonga said the speed at which the government was moving to enact the laws was worrying.
They said the laws would suppress freedom of expression.
Opposition politicians have also condemned the move saying it would silence dissent.