Mobile Money transfer services have grown exponentially in the country with the total number of registered users now exceeding 18 million according to the latest information from Bank of Uganda.
Mobile Money which was pioneered in the country by MTN Uganda back in 2009, has significantly increased access to financial services especially in the rural areas.
According to the just released Annual Supervision Report by the Central Bank, the number of registered customers has grown by 17.1 million [1016.6%] from 1.7 million in December 2010 to 18.8 million in December 2014. In last year’s report, the figure stood at 17.6 million.
Similarly, the number of transactions has increased from 28.8 million in December 2010 to 496.2 million in December 2014, while the value of transactions rose from Shs 962.7 billion in December 2010 to Shs 24,050.2 billion in December 2014.
So far six Mobile Money platforms are in the market, following the 2013 acquisition of Warid Telecom by Airtel which saw Airtel Money and WaridPesa merging into Airtel Money.
The platforms are MTN Mobile Money, M Cash, M Sente , Airtel Money, Ezee Money and Orange Money. These hold their escrow accounts in Stanbic, Equity, Centenary and Standard Chattered Banks.
Mobile Money, which started off six years ago mainly as a person to person domestic remittance service has since evolved to enable remote purchase of airtime, payment of utility bills, payment of school fees, bulk payments such as salaries, payment of television subscription fees, international remittances, and savings.
Despite the rapid growth and relief ushered in money transfer, the central Bank highlighted in the report some challenges hindering Mobile Money, among them inadequate laws that would for instance provide for non-banks to be allowed to independently join the business.
At the moment all mobile money service providers must partner with licensed financial institutions, which then apply for BOU’s approval to offer mobile money services.
The report also noted the challenge of fraud and information systems security regarding the mobile money operations.
Cases have been reported involving Mobile Money company workers manipulating the systems to fraudulently generate e-money onto their own accounts.
Bank of Uganda projects that in the new future, Mobile Money will become an integral part of the national payment system, and thus its strict regulation must be highly prioritized.
Fortunately, the Bank of Uganda Act is being amended to grant the Central Bank powers to regulate and supervise the payment systems. In addition, a National Payment Systems Legislation is being developed.
The Central Bank is hopeful that once this legislation is enacted, payment service providers will be directly licensed by the Central Bank as payment operators.