It is a story of creative minds and hard work, so I was told when I visited them at their office in the Kampala suburb of Ntinda.
Their names are Albert Aguta Jogoo, 35, the managing director of the ICT labs Ntinda, and Allan Kajura, 27, the Business Development Director. The duo led a team of sixteen people to successfully develop a smart credit card in what they said “will help create a cashless society.”
The card is called Imara mobile wallet. It is connected to your mobile money account. The card is based on android technology integrated on mobile payment services.
How it works
All the customer needs is to be registered for mobile money with any network in Uganda. Then the customer must have the Imara card and money on their phone. Such a customer can pay for goods and services using this card at any of the Imara Points of Sales (PoS).
The card will prompt a pop-up on your phone and ask you to confirm payment. Then you type in your Personal Identification Number (Pin) of mobile money on your phone and money for the good is automatically taken off.
“That’s it; your transaction is done there and then,” says Jogoo.
At ICT labs – they the designers of the card – will keep the data base of customers’ names and map them onto their phone numbers such that if you wipe onto the Imara PoS, it can easily connect to your number.
Jogoo said they conceived the idea to develop the card after realising how mobile money had turned out to be a revelation.
“We sought to add value onto mobile money. On several occasions, people have gone to pay for goods, but it’s not as convenient and exciting as they would want – someone has to withdraw money first and then proceed to pay for a good,” he said.
Mobile money platform is now mainly used for sending and receiving money. Not anymore, though. With this card, all one needs is to have money on the account. Kajura, a 2008 ICT graduate from Makerere University, said promising statistics in mobile use inspired them.
Since 2008 when mobile money opened shop in Uganda, about $4.5bn (Shs 11.6tn) worth of transactions has been made. As of 2012, Shs 242m transactions had been made, according to official data.
“Why not tap onto this opportunity?” wondered Kajura.
“Mobile money is growing and it will not remain just a platform for sending and receiving money.”
Indeed, the number of mobile money subscribers has grown to 8.9 million, compared to 4.9m bank accounts, according to Central bank data. To come up with the Imara smart card, it has taken the duo about eight months, they say.
While they are reluctant to disclose how much it has cost them, they say the bill is “massive.”
The Imara card PoS centres will be placed at supermarkets, bars, hotels, fuel stations and schools, among others. The card will only go for Shs 3,000. And for every transaction of below Shs 250,000, the customer will be charged Shs 40, and those transacting above Shs 250, 000, will part with an extra Shs 60.
Security is a concern to almost everyone when it comes to issues of money, but Jogoo says they will not handle money.
“We are in agreement with mobile money providers and we will ride on the platform to help customers pay for goods without touching paper money,” Jogoo said. “Your money will be with MTN, Airtel, Orange; our role is to help you pay.”
In case one loses the card, they can only steal your money if they stole your phone and secret code as well. One card will be working on one number – if you have four mobile number accounts, you will be required to have four Imara cards.
“I am receiving endless calls. People are inquiring about the product,” Jogoo said.
This month, the public will start receiving the cards from supermarkets in Kampala, and then spread to other towns gradually.