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Mobile money agents decry poor relations with telecom companies

FILE PHOTO: Mobile money agents

Kampala, Uganda  | THE INDEPENDENT | Mobile money agents under their umbrella; the Association of East African Mobile Money Traders Limited have petitioned Parliament over the poor working relationship with telecom companies.

The Association chairperson, George William Nyombi presented the dealer’s petition to the Speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga on Monday evening.

Nyombi explained that mobile money agents face a number of challenges including increased insecurity in the form of kidnaps, robberies and illegal transfer of cash from their accounts. The association has over 180,000  agents across the East African region.

More than 50 cases of mobile money agents were recorded in 2019.  Ten were killed including Rebecca Namugaanyi, Harriet Nalwadda and Maureen Nakabuubi. According to Nyombi, they want government to ensure the safety of mobile money agents.

He said issues like fraud and low commissions can be solved if the managers of telecom companies made deliberate efforts to among others identify individuals who access pin codes of agents illegally.  A pin code authorizes one to withdraw or send money among other transactions.

However, Nyombi says their attempts to engage the managers of telecom companies have failed to yield results.

According to Nyombi, mobile money agents play a big role in the growth of the business for instance the over the top tax (OTT) and excise duty on withdrawal and transfer transactions generated from their shops or kiosks.

He however, says they are unhappy with the commission paid by telecom companies, saying the companies should support mobile agent associations “the same way the government supports sports associations.”

The Commission of agents reduced significantly after the introduction of the one percent tax on mobile money withdrawals in July 2018.  Though the mobile money tax was later slashed to 0.5 percent, some agents still abandoned the business over reduced customer transactions and thereby decreasing commission.

Bank of Uganda figures show that the total value of mobile money transactions between June 2016 and June 2017 increased from 36 trillion to 60 trillion Shillings.

However, between July 2018 and June 2019, the total value of mobile money transactions reduced from 73 trillion to 66 trillion Shillings. This was despite the growth in the number of mobile money users from 22.7 million in 2017 to 25.8 million users in 2018.

It was noted that only 15.5 million of these users had active accounts after the introduction of mobile money tax.  In her response, Kadaga asked Nyombi to provide more details on how the telecom companies can support mobile agents and what specific issues the companies must address.

She pledged to convene a meeting between the agents and telecom companies with the aim of addressing the supposed poor working relationship and other challenges of the mobile money industry.

Nyombi told Uganda Radio Network that he would submit a more detailed petition to the Speaker on their concerns. Our reporter couldn’t get a comment from the telecom companies by the time of filing this story.


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