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Tanzania row over wig and hair extension tax

  • 14 June 2019
Wigs on mannequins Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Imported wigs and hair extensions would be taxed by 25%

A row has broken out in Tanzania over the government's decision to impose a tax on wigs and hair extensions.

Many male and some female MPs applauded and thumped their desks in approval when Finance Minister Philip Mpango announced the tax in parliament.

Supporters of the levy say it will help women keep their hair natural.

But there has also been public outrage, with women saying they are being punished for wanting to look good in wigs and hair extensions.

Tanzanians tend to uphold traditional values, but society is changing and many women now wear wigs and extensions, the BBC's Aboubakar Famau reports from the capital, Dodoma.

In his budget speech in parliament on Thursday, Mr Mpango announced a 25% tax on imported wigs and hair extensions and a 10% tax on those made locally as part of a series of measures aimed at increasing government revenue.

The cheapest wigs currently costs around $4 (£3.40), but they can sell for up to $130.

Mr Mpango also scrapped the exemption on value added tax placed on sanitary towels, saying consumers had not benefited as businesses did not reduce prices when it was introduced

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Media captionTeaching boys and girls to make recyclable sanitary pads in Uganda

Opposition MP Upendo Peneza said she would campaign against the removal of the exemption, adding that the government should push businesses to lower their prices.

'People love artificial hair'

Well-known wig Tanzania importer Annasatasia Sigera condemned the wig tax: "People love artificial hair. Why of all the things that could be taxed did they opt for wigs?"

One woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the BBC that she spends $450 on her hair extensions.

"It's like they're punishing us because women like hair and we like to look good," she said.

Aristote Mwamtobe, who runs a popular salon in the main city of Dar es Salaam, said the tax could affect people's relationships.

"The 10% tax [for locally made wigs] and the 25% tax [for imported wigs] is too expensive for our sisters," he said.

"They might cut their hair, which could lead to divorces as the men are used to seeing their wives with long hair. Women look so good with wigs."

In other measures, Mr Mpango announced that the tax on chocolates and biscuits would increase from 25% to 35%, and the tax on imported coolers and other equipment that farmers use to store vegetables would be scrapped.

The new budget is expected to come into force next month.

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