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MTN Advocates for Overhaul of Tax Structure

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Telecommunications giant MTN is calling for a reassessment of the country’s tax structure to stimulate more investment in critical infrastructure within the mobile telephony sector.

At the inaugural 3i Africa Summit in Accra, MTN Ghana CEO Stephen Blewett emphasized the negative impact of high taxes on the mobile industry and urged policymakers to reevaluate the current tax levels. “Taxes consume about 30% of the industry’s revenues, posing a significant barrier to critical infrastructure and other investments,” Blewett noted.

Blewett argued that without suitable fiscal incentives, the essential funding needed to modernize and expand digital infrastructure, especially for advanced technologies like 5G, will not be realized. “We must not sacrifice long-term growth for short-term gains,” he said. Blewett has been leading MTN Ghana since April 1.

The summit, themed “Unleashing Africa’s Fintech and Digital Economic Potential,” brought together leaders, policymakers, regulators, innovators, and change-makers from across Africa to foster collaboration, drive innovation, and build momentum for the continent’s transformation.

MTN Ghana and MobileMoney Ltd sponsored the three-day summit, a collaborative effort by the Bank of Ghana, the Development Bank of Ghana, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Blewett highlighted the success of fintech services like MTN’s Mobile Money and Vodafone and Safaricom’s M-Pesa as evidence of fintech’s transformative potential on the continent, providing millions with essential financial services. He emphasized the need for policymakers and regulators to balance investment, innovation, and revenue generation.

“Our ability to invest requires concerted and sustained support from all stakeholders, and it is encouraging to see the key players in this room,” Blewett said.

Despite advancements in the digital revolution, Africa still lags in mobile adoption and innovation, according to Blewett. He identified constraints such as low infrastructure coverage, high data costs, lack of digital skills training, and expensive smartphones. “These constraints continue to limit internet access among vulnerable groups, especially women,” he said.

Blewett urged policymakers to address these barriers by improving data coverage, reducing the cost of data and data-enabled devices, particularly in rural and low-income areas, and enhancing digital literacy.

“To achieve this, we as leaders, innovators, businesses, financiers, and investors must collaborate to implement solutions that will accelerate this transformation and create a sustainable and inclusive digital economy for Africa,” Blewett stated.

He also called on business leaders to invest in new products and services to enable affordable remittance solutions, digital payments, savings, lending, insurance, and investment products. These services offer significant opportunities for start-ups and SMEs, which are the backbone of Africa’s economy.

Blewett encouraged African leaders to shape the future through transparent and forward-looking policies and regulations while building the necessary institutional capacity. He stressed the importance of establishing innovation hubs and digital sandboxes to incubate, test, and roll out new products.

Such hubs, Blewett pointed out, would mentor and nurture the next generation of African entrepreneurs by providing the necessary resources, environment, and training. He also called for think tanks to produce research supporting advocacy and decision-making, and for multilaterals to implement frameworks and protocols facilitating continuous dialogue and intergovernmental action.

Finally, Blewett addressed sustainability, urging business leaders and policymakers to integrate Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices into their commercial activities. “We must not lose sight of the impact our actions have on our environment and society and strive to create shared value in business outcomes. We must progressively reduce our carbon footprints by investing in renewable energy and other energy-efficient tools and technologies,” he concluded.

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