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Ugandan mobile money under scrutiny
March 11, 2018, 4:54 pm

A fight is raging between telecom operators on one side, and the Uganda Communications Commissions (UCC), the Uganda Police Force, and State House on the other, over moves to monitor the US$12 billion (Shs44 trillion) mobile money business.

At the heart of the tussle is a push by President Yoweri Museveni to get full access of the telecom data systems through the multi-billion technology called Intelligence Network Monitoring System (INMS) that government put in place last year.

While Uganda has multiple telecom companies, the fight to defend business secrecy appears to have been left to the two telecom giants — MTN Uganda, which says it controls 55 percent of the telecom market share or about 11.2 million subscribers, and its main challenger, Airtel Uganda.

Although the government acquired INMS to monitor telecom data and voice operations, the current disagreements appear to stem from the push by government departments to pry into mobile money, which is the biggest cash cow of the telecoms. Mobile money, which has been growing very fast, had a value of US$12 billion at the end of 2016. That is what the Uganda Police, State House, and the Ministry of ICT want to get involved in.

Since telecoms started operating, they have been doing what is called self-declaration to the sector regulator, UCC. But with the entry of mobile money, which requires financial sector regulation, and the advent of cyber security and terrorism which implies roles for security agencies, several control wars have erupted.

The tussle erupted in November of last year when UCC directed that telecoms grant the Uganda Police access to their Mobile Money operations data. The telecoms protested saying that Mobile Money services is regulated by Bank of Uganda and as such does not fall with in the category of services that should be monitored by UCC through the INMS.

President Museveni was directly involved in procuring the INMS technology and is keen to have access to all the data that the system can monitor, including Mobile Money operations and its links to national security issues.

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