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Business News of Thursday, 16 May 2024



MTN CEO urges tax reassessment to boost mobile money growth

Stephen Blewett Stephen Blewett

The Chief Executive Officer of MTN Ghana, Stephen Blewett, has called for a reassessment of tax policies hindering mobile industry growth.

Mr. Blewett lamented that taxes, constituting about 30 percent of industry revenues, serve as a major barrier to critical infrastructure and other investments necessary for modernising and expanding digital infrastructure, including the adoption of higher technologies like 5G.

He said a rethink of tax policies is, therefore, important to unleash the continent’s digital economy, highlighting the necessity for operators to collaborate closely with policy-makers to achieve mutual growth.

“We are not adversaries. Collaboration is essential. It requires us to come together and acknowledge your national priorities, understand the pressures involved and ensure that short-term decisions do not lead to long-term consequences,” he said.

He expressed concern that without suitable fiscal incentives, the challenge of modernising and expanding digital infrastructure into advanced technologies could arise.

“I wish to highlight the impact that high taxation has on the mobile industry and urge our policy-makers to reconsider the approach to taxation of the sector. Taxes constitute about 30 percent of the revenues in the industry and are a major barrier to critical infrastructure and other investments.

“Without the appropriate fiscal incentives, the funding needed to modernise and expand digital infrastructure into higher technologies, 5G for instance, and increase affordability and accessibility to mobile Internet will not materialise. We must not sacrifice long-term growth for short-term gains,” he stated.

He said this at the 2024 3i Africa Summit in Accra, which brought together leaders, policymakers, regulators, innovators and change-makers across Africa to spearhead conversations on ‘Unleashing Africa’s Fintech and Digital Economic Potential’.

Mr. Blewet also stressed the need for innovation and investment to unleash the continent’s digital economy.

He noted that policy-makers and regulators must strike the right balance between investment, innovation and revenue generation.

Elaborating on investment, he said: “You [policy-makers] must help to shape the future we all wish to see through transparent and forward-looking policies and regulations as well as the requisite institutional capacity.

“Policy and legal frameworks must encourage the establishment of innovation hubs and digital sandboxes to provide the platform for incubating, testing and rolling out new products. Such hubs will be the channels for mentoring and nurturing the next generation of African entrepreneurs while providing the necessary resources, environment and training.”

He also advised think tanks to produce research supporting advocacy and decision-making, while emphasising the importance of multilaterals establishing relevant frameworks and protocols to facilitate ongoing dialogue and intergovernmental action.

He further advocated collaboration among stakeholders to drive innovation, attract investment and create a positive impact.

Mr. Blewett commended the summit’s focus, stating: “The theme resonates with me because it lies at the core of MTN’s mission to drive connectivity and inclusion across the continent and Ghana specifically”.

He also expressed optimism about the outcomes of the summit and emphasised the importance of concrete action plans and political will in implementing transformative initiatives for Africa’s future prosperity.