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UCC blockade bites mobile money users

Users of mobile money services expressed bitterness at the weekend, as the blockage of the system entered a third day.

All mobile money agents were out of business, leaving millions of users unable to transact any business over the platform. Asked on Saturday when normal service would resume, an MTN customer care official said: “Anytime over the next 24 hours.” This meant the service was expected back by Sunday, latest.

The latest figures by the Bank of Uganda indicate that there are over 20 million mobile money users across all platforms namely MTN, Airtel, uganda telecom and Africell.

According to figures from MTN alone, transactions worth Shs 2 trillion are carried out on its mobile money system monthly. Each day, at least Shs 66 billion is transacted. Many micro and small businesses also use the mobile money platform.

Clients at an MTN mobile money shop

MTN and Airtel sent out notices to customers revealing that they were compelled by the regulator, Uganda Communications Commission, “to disable all social media and mobile money services due to a threat to public order and safety.”

The nature of the threat has not been specified. UCC executive director later said social media and mobile money platforms were being used to facilitate voter bribery.

Moses Anguyo, a mobile money operator at Arua park, says he has lost about Shs 500,000 in the three days. He adds that in addition to the commission he gets from the transactions, he also sells airtime and groceries which now lack customers.

In downtown Kampala, most shops remained closed on Saturday. Meanwhile, the shilling came under pressure mid-week as demand picked up amidst low inflows.

In the treasury bill auction, yields dropped across all tenors that saw Bank of Uganda take up Shs 185 billion.

Stephen Kaboyo, the managing director of Alpha Capital Markets, says the shilling is expected to remain under mild pressure before market activity gets back to normal levels.

newseditor@observer.ug

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