Sierra Leone Approves Zero Duty on Computers

The Sierra Leone Parliament has passed Finance Act 2008, a bill that provides for the effective elimination of duty on computer imports .

Though the bill is geared toward broadening the government's revenue base, the finance ministry decided to remove the duty on computers to help make them accessible to people in every part of Sierra Leone, including remote areas, said Presidential Affairs Minister Alpha Kanu, speaking before Parliament on Tuesday.

"The information age is bringing the world closer and computers are becoming a necessity. With a computer, you can access almost all the major libraries in the world by doing anything online," Kanu said.

Member of Parliament Bernadette Lahai noted in the Parliament session that "In other countries, every student from nursery to primary school can boast of a computer -- why not us in Sierra Leone?"

The move "will reduce the price of computers and components," said Ali Ajao, technical director at FGC Wireless, speaking to the IDG Enterprise Service. "But the reduction may not be immediate."

The high cost of computers has been blamed for the widening digital gap in the country, and computer dealers claim that high custom duties are responsible for the high prices of PCs and peripherals.

The price of new desktop computers varies from 3 million leones (US$1,000) to 6 million depending on the make, said Ade Thomas, a computer network specialist who also serves as a middleman between sellers and buyers of both used and new computers.

But that could change now that there is a bill in place.

"With this new development, computer sales price is likely to come down by at least 15 percent because the dealers will be eased a bit," Thomas told the IDG News Service.

"For a brand-new laptop that costs about $1,000 in Nigeria or other West African countries, we can get $2,500 here (in Sierra Leone)," said FGC's Ajao. "For normal desktop that could cost about $300 to $500 in other West African market, it will not be less than $1,000 to $1,500 in Freetown. Also there are lots of fairly used computers that should have cost less than Le100,000 ($33), but here, you can only get them for nothing less than $100 or more."

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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