FEATURE: Is being a Mobile Money agent still a profitable business in Uganda?

People transact at mobile money outlets in Kampala. PHOTO/COURTESY

Mobile money has been one of the biggest drivers of financial inclusion in Uganda, statistics show.

According to data from Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the number of mobile money agents has grown by 49,488 in two years.

The report indicates that 8,500 new agents were added to the network between the second and third quarter of 2020, adding to the more than 227,736 agents that operate across different networks.

Currently, there are seven mobile money schemes in Uganda. These include MTN, Airtel, Uganda Telecom, Africell, M-cash, PayWay, and EeezyMoney.

Despite this increase, several mobile money agents say they are no longer benefitting from the business following the slashing of their commission by telecom companies.

The commission is the money received off every mobile money transaction made by a mobile money agent. For example, if a customer came to a mobile money shop and sent Shs200,000, the agent would receive about Shs2,000 commission off that transaction.

The agent earns commission from the deposit, withdrawal, buying airtime, and paying bills for the customers.

The commission of agents reduced significantly after the introduction of the one percent tax on mobile money withdrawals in July 2018.

Though the mobile money tax was later slashed to 0.5 percent, George William Nyombi, the chairperson of the Association of East African Mobile Money Traders Limited, some agents still abandoned the business over reduced customer transactions and thereby decreasing commission.

Nyombi says they are unhappy with the commission paid by telecom companies, saying the companies should support mobile agent associations “the same way the government supports sports associations.”

Mr Victor Aryatura, an agent operating in Namugongo, Wakiso District, says mobile money is no longer a very profitable venture for one to rely on independently nowadays due to the slashed commission fees.

He says he has had to operate the business alongside selling other items to make ends meet.

Bank of Uganda figures show that the total value of mobile money transactions between June 2016 and June 2017 increased from Shs36 trillion to Shs60 trillion.

However, between July 2018 and June 2019, the total value of mobile money transactions reduced from Shs73 trillion to Shs66 trillion.

However, Ms Lydia Akiki, a mobile money agent in Njerere, Mukono District, says despite slashing of their commission, she still looks at the business as profitable.

She explains that she receives an average of Shs400,000 commission per month.

Mr Nyombi explains that mobile money agents face a number of challenges including increased insecurity in the form of kidnaps, robberies and illegal transfer of cash from their accounts. The association has over 180,000 agents across the East African region.


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