Kenya introduces 25 percent tax on used computer imports

In a move aimed at reducing computer dumping, the Kenyan government has introduced a 25 percent duty on all used computer imports.

The aim is to discourage importation of used computers and encourage local assembly as a means of creating jobs and limiting e-waste, said Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication.

The move by the government has attracted criticism from organizations that import and distribute refurbished computers to rural schools, hospitals and meteorological stations.

Access is the most important thing, said Computer Aid Africa's program manager Gladys Muhunyo, citing a study by the Kenya ICT Action Network that reveals 50 percent of computers used in Kenya are refurbished.

"The tax is an ill-advised move," said Tom Musili, CEO of Computers For Schools Kenya. "We are not helping our country by imposing tax, because we are far from not using used computers. Can the government provide new computers to all schools in the country?"

Musili argued that CFSK should be exempt from the tax, as the organization's e-waste plant addresses the government's concerns, with monitors shipped to Norway for disposal.

The responsibility of handling e-waste and costs related to e-waste should be left to manufacturers, as is the case in Europe, suggested Muhunyo.

The government should recognize efforts to extend the lives of computers for rural development and access, she added.

Ndemo, however, maintained that the tax will not be scrapped, and the government will only negotiate over computers that were already in transit at the time the tax was passed.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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