(Business in Cameroon) - Agent of the Bonabéri mobile customs brigade recently seized 800 cell phones and batteries smuggled from Nigeria, we learn. The seized goods were hidden in a passenger bus.
This is not the first time customs authorities are seizing smuggled phones in Cameroon. In March 2021, the Limbe mobile customs brigade seized over 2,600 smuggled cellphones at the Mudeka checkpoint.
This umpteenth seizure revives debates about the cellphone smuggling problems facing Cameroon. Indeed, over the past 20 years, the mobile penetration rate grew rapidly but, the customs revenues generated by the sector did not follow the same trend. They were rather dropping, we learned. "Nowadays, we barely collect XAF100 million monthly instead of the XAF2 billion we used to collect monthly. This decrease contrasts with the number and quality of the phones imported," the Directorate General of Customs explains.
To address phone smuggling issues, the government announced that as of October 15, 2020, a digital mobile tax collection system would become effective. The system entailed mobile operators connecting to a digital platform developed by French company Arintech to facilitate the collection of customs duties on mobile phones by debiting users’ airtime.
However, due to the problems pointed out by mobile operators (the platform’s limited technical characteristics, private data management issues, the legality of using airtime as a payment means, the projected losses to be incurred by operators if disgruntled users stop using their networks because of the new measure...) as well as users’ protests against the project, the government postponed its reform.