Open Letter To Mobile Money Service Providers, Stake Holders & Users

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Technology Is meant to Simplify Life, Not Complicate It.

By this time round, 10 years and more ago, we would all be at either the post office or the taxi park trying to send money to our loved ones in the village. If I remember correctly, it cost my Father 500ugx shillings for a Post office Stamp to send money from Kampala to Mbale in an envelop which took a week to reach and even sometimes lost along the way. During emergencies and urgent times, he always sent money through a Taxi at the cost of 5000ugx shillings with assurance of her getting the money only if she is at the Mbale taxi part or slated stage at the time. Note, at this time around phones where scarce. To pass a message to the village, one either had to travel or visit. At this point, we also had banks, but people did not really feel comfortable using them for many reasons which at a time required one to know how to write, have identification and so on, which wasn’t a strong pursuit for many. Farther more, it was expensive and intimidating for the local community to use. (Still is today for some people) Hence people resorted to the alternatives at the time.

The introduction of MOBILE BANKING however, it has greatly improved the exchange and transfer of money from one place to another. Dropping costs on communication and accessories such as phones, airtime and much more encouraged many to buy phones. Two years ago alone, over 18 million sim cards were registered to Ugandans cutting across all networks. This is mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region with the most Mobile Banking users in the entire Africa. Sending money to the village unlike before is at the comfort of the sender especially with wide spread Mobile Banking agents of the telecom services. Above all, it is secure and one is sure within a few minutes the person on the other end will be able to receive the money. Mobile Banking has even been advanced in local businesses, payment of services such as UMEME, School fees, water bills, taxes, etc. This has reduced difficulties in the process of banking. In the case of Uganda, Mobile Banking efficiency is dependent on number of registered users, number of money withdraw or access points, cost of the service and government policy (Taxes & Central Bank Rules). So far MTN has the widest coverage of Mobile Banking network  followed by Airtel who both have more agents spread around the country and users respectively of course including Africel, UTL and so on. 

Compared to the number of bank accounts, in comparison… Mobile Banking has registered the highest number of over 14 million users. I can send money for as low as 330 ugx shillings. However, the coming of Mobile Banking has not reduced a lot  of burdanes as it is. Of late, I have been frequently using Mobile Banking together with my friends for business, daily expenditures, in-country-remittances and have noted a lot that needs to be addressed. 

Transfer Costs & Frequent Transactions In The Long Run Become Expensive Especially When You Are Dealing With Big Sums Of Money. 

On average, my family up country spends 10,000ugx shillings for food in a week with over 5 people home… thats Posho, Beans, Charcoal etc. Medication, school fees for siblings and other costs amount to about 400,000ugx shillings. With the current systems, sending that money (in-network: with in the same service provider network) will cost my family a loss of food for over two weeks!! To make matters worse, Cross-network transaction from one network to another e.g. MTN to Airtel or Africel either way… will cost me if not double, then triple the cost. If sending money in a taxi before was flat at 5,000shs, I want to believe that the new technology is meant to solve this cost problem too. Its important for service providers to reduce on costs of money transfer for these are mostly used a in-country-remittances (direct aid) sent to our homes aimed at reducing famine, educating children, and much more. Instead of government also over taxing the funds, its a high time they reconsider cause 80% of the people who use Mobile Banking are the low and middle income earners related in one way or the other. 

In-Net & Cross-Net Transactions.

Stranded in town at 11:30pm, a friend of mine sent me money one day on my MTN line from Airtel. Lucky for me, I found an MTN mobile money agent who was willing to help me; To my disadvantage… I would not withdraw the money from MTN just because it was sent from another network. Now, if we are going to always ask about development and globalisation, we might as well begin with removing berries in Money transfer and transactions. Imagine how simplified it would be if I could freely move money from any network with out secret codes or even seeking isolated withdraw points? Moving money freely from all my bank accounts and more securely with just my phone? Pay for my Boda-Boda close to no cost, pay for glossaries, buy things online, buy AIRTIME OF ANY NETWORK (with no network limitation of my service provider) and all this by simply giving the service or product provider my number and all I have to do is confirm with my security code! Wouldn’t this revolutionarise banking? As long as one has Mobile Cash, he or she may be able to access it from any withdraw point. Am sure this is a service Central Bank can authorize in collaboration with the respective providers or stake holders, thats what it means to have People-Based-Institutions.

Easy Connectivity To Bank.

As a young entrepreneur, I want to know that I can receive money from my cooperate clients and easily deposits it to my Business Bank Account. I know these services already existent from with Stanbic Bank and other banks, however there is need to make it a right and not a privilege. Government should protect us as Ugandans, young or female entrepreneurs. Can the banks come to the grassroots and allow us to bank as low as 1,000ugx shillings without charge? Can the banks also reduce the service fees they levy on their business accounts per month? (anyway thats talk for another day) All I am saying, Mobile Banking should be the grassroots banking system which addresses the needs of people who are working for 100ugx shillings a day! Can a girl who sells maize of 200shillings bank her money? A boy who sells G-nuts on the road and makes 1500shillings bank and withdraw with out loosing profit money? The list goes on! Personally, I feel that if it is not 50,000shillings I cant bank it! Simply because the more transactions I make, the more money I loose… Hence I wait and accumulate the money so i can deposit once. But as we all know, keeping money in your wallet is not easy, there are a lot of insecurities that may arise. 

Friendly User Interface. 

My grandmother can not read, write or anything of the sort. All she can do, is read figures of the money you have sent and memorise her Security Pin number. With over half of Ugandans not educated to high levels, at the same time being the biggest mobile money users, it makes no sense complicating the whole mobile money interface. There are just a lot of confusing selections to make for example goods and service, airtime, send money to non-mobile user, bank transfer, umeme, pay way and much more… Its okay for all these to be there, however, why don’t you make payments of certain services easy? Reach out to service providers or businesses and offer them a charging system. I want to go to a shop keeper and buy 2kg of sugar, 1kg of rice and then have him bill be from his phone directly to my mobile number the cost of items bought for example 6,000shs plus maybe 100shs transaction charge and all i have to do is accept payment by simply putting in my security code! This is already happening for some services like SMILE Online Data renewal using MTN! Why not role it out for all networks and services? We need to have a Push and Pay or Buy system and not all these code systems!!

There is a lot I can say about this all… but I have to conclude. Mobile Banking is one of the greatest tools for sustainable development in Africa. However, if service providers and governments don’t set out to have more convenient ways of addressing the above and more, all development attempts will continue to be conventional and won’t be sustainable.

Hence For sustainable development to take place, make Mobile Banking affordable and simple to use across all networks for easy transfer of money and transactions. With them using it more, it will be indirect aid hence participatory development in the areas of food security, health, education, business (poverty eradication) just because the middle class family or friends of the low income earners or farmers earn extra cash to boost what they do. Review the entire Mobile Banking not as an opportunity for revenue and profit but rather a tool for poverty eradication and sustainable development. 

To other Mobile Banking Uses, please comment more concerns incase I left out any, Share post on all your platforms to also get the message out there… our common voice together is our greatest too for empowerment, thank you.

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