President Museveni has said government and business leaders must have a win-win formula devoid of exploitation of the local people to avoid grievances between locals and foreign investors.
“We had issues of people cheating our taxes and under declaring calls. We bought our own machines and were able to see all this. It is important that you float shares on the local stock exchange to allow for local ownership now that the license has been renewed,” he said.
The President was on Wednesday meeting the MTN Group Chief Executive Officer Rob Shuter at the sidelines of the ongoing World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
According to a statement from State House, Museveni was “particularly irked by the fact that telecom firms are milking vulnerable Ugandans” by not adding value to their products but instead extending “talking services” that have led to severe leakage of the country’s forex.
“Pay attention to this issue. IT penetration in Africa can end up being a problem. If you are providing a service for people to just talk without creating wealth. Telecommunications then get dollars which they take out, leaking even the little money that the country earns from its exports. You should foresee these trade deficits. More locally owned companies should be allowed to earn money so that most of it remains here,” he said.
The President’s warning comes just days after three top MTN Uganda executives were arrested and deported on charges related to ‘incitement to violence’ and ‘threatening national security.’
The President reiterated government’s commitment to ban foreign betting companies, which he says have accumulated a lot of money that is taken out of the country because of governments open policy.
“We should find smart ways of handling this and ensure that at least 70% including taxes stay in the country so that it is not a point of grievances between locals and foreigners,” he said.
The President said the issue of local ownership and taxes needs to be resolved by all the operators.
He said telecom companies have made it easy to pull money from the rural areas and the crucial point is how to share it with the locals.
Mr. Shuter said Uganda has only 5 percent shareholding in MTN and that they are in the process of negotiating about disposing shares to NSSF.
He acknowledged that disguised calls that led to less taxes are a shared problem and that his company was committed to resolving this and complying with the laws of Uganda.
He said they were open to any investigations to resolve the issues raised and thanked government for renewing their license.