Mobile money agents have urged telecom companies to begin sensitising them on their rights, roles and responsibilities as stipulated in Central bank regulations.
On October 1, 2013, Bank of Uganda (BOU) issued guidelines to all stakeholders in the mobile money business, nullifying some practices previously insisted on by telecoms.
The provision nullifies all exclusivity agreements, where an agent would not be allowed to run multiple mobile money accounts of different service providers in the same location.
“The telecoms were terrorising us with exclusivity clauses. This was tough on agents with small surviving business entities operating with a small working capital of about Shs 2-3m,” says Celestino Mindra, the chairman of Uganda Mobile Money Agents’ Association (UMMAA).
Still, section 10 also stipulates that the “mobile money industry shall not engage in anti-competitive practices that are likely to substantially inhibit competition in the market”.
Mindra says that just like the retail business, where someone can stock three different brands of sugar, the new arrangement allows for running of different accounts at the same premises. Some of the agents we talked to confirmed this exclusivity.
“When I opened my MTN account, they told me that I had to run it independently…but they have not been strict in previous months,” said Irene Nakabaale, an agent in Nakulabye.
The association wants telecoms to take the responsibility of disseminating this information especially to new entrants in the business. Peterson Mugisha, who opened his kiosk in January, says there was no exclusive clause.
“I run three accounts and no one has come to complain,” he says.
There is money to be made in mobile money services. About Shs 3tn worth of transactions was made across mobile money transactions last year, according to BOU. The 2013 Finscope household survey also revealed that while commercial banks penetration had remained static between 2009 and 2013, the mobile money network had grown four-fold.
There is also a need for a transparent and effective regulatory framework that will ensure safety of money for customers, agents and service providers. Previously, whenever someone filed a complaint with MTN, they would be told to go to police.
“When you tell the police, they also want facilitation and the case drags on until you spend more money than what you want to recover,” said UMMAA Secretary General Francis Kizza.