TaxOnPhone - A prototype from the first lab of tomorrow taking big steps in Zambia

Berlin/Lusaka, 27 June. E-government is a highly pressing issue for both Zambian and German authorities and companies. The President of Zambia, H.E. Edgar Lungu, has declared the promotion of e-government as one of the priorities of his presidency. Zambian authorities are currently implementing or developing e-government approaches. One example: the launch of a project between the Zambian Revenue Authority (ZRA) and the German IT company ibes that took place at the first German-Zambian Business Forum on 27 June in Lusaka.

The Forum was organised by the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the German-African Business Association and the Strategic Partnership Digital Africa, an initiative of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to facilitate exchange between Zambian and German experts and decision-makers in the area of government and e-government. Delegates at the Forum discussed the current status of and future plans for e-government in Zambia and exchanged know-how with German entrepreneurs.

The project that was launched during the Forum aims to improve the collection of tax revenues from small and medium-sized enterprises through use of a mobile-based electronic tax system called TaxOnPhone, recently named ZAMeT (Zambia Mobile-Based Electronic Taxation System). It is being implemented as a development partnership within the programme in cooperation with the Good Governance Programme of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Government. The software can be used in any kind of mobile phone and is embedded in ZRA’s existing IT infrastructures. ‘We’ve been involved in the development of the idea along with ibes right from the start. That means that we came up with a tailor-made solution for ZRA,’ says Kingsley Chanda, Commissioner-General of ZRA. The project essentially involves a new software that links ZRA’s online tax platform and the existing GSM networks. A Tax-ID is linked to the SIM-cards of the Zambian taxpayer: Business owners or natural persons. The software allows fast access to ZRA-services, like checking their tax status, declare taxes and see their payment history is only a text message away.

The idea of letting people and companies pay taxes via a mobile phone arose in in joint collaboration of ibes and the ZRA within the lab of tomorrow. Especially African countries have gained a lot of interest from the private sector over the last few years. Increasingly the continent is seen as the continent of opportunities. The same mind-set also brought ibes to the table. However, investing in Africa needs a lot of tactfulness as Ernesto Pereira, the project manager of TaxOnPhone from ibes AG points out. “Companies participating in the lab of tomorrow need to be open minded, listen to the local experts and understand the core problems instead of sticking to their existing solutions. We vastly benefited from the knowledge of the ZRA, which had already conducted studies about tax-payers and identified the immense usage of mobile phones among the Zambian population.” Aside the local insights that ibes gained from the workshop, Pereira highly emphasises the network possibilities and the tremendous work and collaborative motivation that the ZRA showed and in the end tipped the balance to pursue the project.

‘The project and the Forum showed how taking the opportunities presented by the ongoing digitalisation of Africa is a win-win-situation for Zambia and for German companies,’ emphasised Kingsley Chanda, ZRA Commissioner General. ‘We hope that more projects like these are going to emerge over the next few months and years – in good cooperation with Germany.’

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