The recent story about the URA seizure of counterfeit currency notes worth Shs 189m at the Busia border was significant in many ways.
First, it gave a clear indication that there is demand for counterfeit money in Uganda, which explains why the culprits could risk importing it. Second, the demand for counterfeit money is channeled through the uncontrolled growth of mobile money transaction whose value is now in excess of Shs 15 trillion.
Despite its strong economic attributes, the mobile money platform in Uganda today provides the weakest link in our financial system. It provides the easiest entry point for fake money.
Many unbanked Ugandans who cannot take advantage of the high precision and sophisticated note-sorting machines that banks use to protect customers against fake money are suffering every day without recourse.
When Ugandans receive fake money which they cannot detect from some mobile money agents who exploit a system wanting in rigorous risk and compliance safeguards coupled with an unreliable consumer protection mechanism, they are beside themselves with misery.
The dearth of a national payment system, inadequacies of the Bank of Uganda mobile money regulations 2013 and the mis-regulated role of telecoms as financial service providers of mobile money only help to compound the matter.
Apart from counterfeit money, other scams are thriving on the mobile money platform because of poor regulation. To appreciate the endemic level of the problem, you need to check out the New Vision stories in October 2017 alone under the following titles:
• Government officials conned in new mobile money scam, October 19.
• Mobile money scam, MTN to assist conned customers, October 21.
• Legislators fault Bank of Uganda over mobile money transactions, October 25.
• MPs question safety of mobile money transactions, October 27.
Counterfeiting of any product is very dangerous but doing it with money must rank very high. I agree with Oscar Zach when he writes in his article titled “The importance of money” published on June 24, 2014 that “money dictaates the flow of human living in the modern world. Without money, life is often difficult and painful.”
We should be very concerned that if money which dictates the flow of life can be counterfeited, what else cannot be.
What will happen if currency note detectors which are supposed to detect fake notes are also counterfeited?
It is already very difficult and painful for Ugandans to find work and earn a decent income. That their meager income can be lost to counterfeit currency notes smuggled across our porous borders must call for emergency action.
The commendable effort by URA in impounding the counterfeit money must not be stymied by inaction from our financial regulators.
Director, Legal and Corporate Affairs,
Anti-Counterfeit Network Africa.
Private sector is a viable solution to unemployment
The youth in Uganda constitute about 75 per cent of the population, and many of them are unemployed. The phenomenon of job scarcity is experienced in most African countries. In Uganda, there are about three million government jobs in a population of 36 million people.
The mindset of youths being employed by the government is unsustainable. The private sector in most developed countries offers a big chuck of jobs compared to the government.
Therefore, attracting investors to Uganda is one of the ways youths can get employed. The unemployment problem today can’t be blamed on the current government but, rather, the previous ones that never paid much attention to the private sector.
Let us understand our situation and collectively find a solution to the prevailing levels of job scarcity, bearing in mind the rapid population growth.
I call upon Ugandans to support government initiatives such as Operation Wealth Creation, universal primary and secondary education. The government should also continue inviting more investors.
Investors will rejuvenate our technical skills, reduce the unemployment problem and strengthen our economic base through paying taxes.
Nurture children to say no to sex
I have been following ‘the war of words’ between those in support of provision of contraceptives to teenagers and those against it.
Those in support of giving contraceptives to children overlook two fundamentals about sex. First, it takes two people – a male and a female – for pregnancy to occur. What interventions have been put in place to deter the males from having irresponsible sex?
Secondly, pregnancy is only one of the outcomes of sexual intercourse. There are many others which include intimacy, regret (later in life), and sexually transmitted infections and diseases. And while pregnancy can only happen once, the other outcomes can occur at every intercourse; outcomes no child should be exposed to.
A 15-year-old girl is just a child. As adults, we should not run away from our responsibilities and massage our shame in finding unhealthy, quick-fix solutions to symptoms of a generation that has abdicated their parenting responsibilities to schools, social media and television.
It is not right to introduce young girls to drugs as powerful as contraceptives when there is a far better and healthier option: saying no to sex until marriage.
Try rotational presidency
The ongoing gridlock in Kenya’s politics has further given credence to the periodical rotational presidency system.
We may choose to pretend but the fact remains that in multi-ethnic countries ruled by unscrupulous and nepotistic governments, every tribal grouping desires that one of its own must be at the helm.
This can be proved by the unquestioning voting pattern of Kikuyus and their Kalenjin allies in Kenya against others. It is also one of the reasons why President Museveni scores close to 100 per cent in his home area.