Uganda lifts ban on airtime scratch cards

Uganda lifts ban on airtime scratch cards

MTN Uganda CEO responds saying research shows that 99 percent of customers have already embraced the electronic airtime loading system.

Wim Vanhelleputte, Chief Executive Officer of MTN Uganda has reacted to the government's decision to lift a ban on airtime scratch cards and said while research showed only negligible use by consumers, the company will restock the cards.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) imposed a ban on these cards in late July based on the outcome of extensive discussions with local operators.

Frank Tumwebaze, Minister for ICT and National Guidance in Uganda told the country's parliament that airtime scratch cards would be phased out over an extended period instead of being banned immediately.

This followed deliberation late last week by MPs over airtime scratch cards and the potential impact the ban would have on consumers who use older mobile devices.

"Let us not ban scratch cards abruptly. I agree that we should have walked along with our rural people," said Tumwebaze.

MTN Uganda, the most popular mobile network operator by subscriber numbers and revenue, recently presented its interim results and reported increased service revenue of 8,8% led by a 19,7% increase in digital revenue.

The UCC urged Ugandans to use mobile money services to load airtime or do so through Electronic Vouchers (Easy Load). According to the results, MTN Mobile Money subscribers make up more than half the total subscriber base of 10,5 million in Uganda, which declined by 1,8% due to the UCC's ban on the sale and replacement of SIM cards between March and May 2018.

MTN Uganda's Vanhelleputte added, "Figures on the ground show that 99 percent of customers have already embraced the electronic airtime loading system. We will see how market forces play. If there is a strong demand to go back to scratch cards, we will have to find a way to address those demands."

Tumwebaze also described e-loading as a way to combat fraud. "We like to argue and oppose every new initiative, yet we are quick at admiring new advances and initiatives in other countries. Going digital is a solution to everything. A cashless economy is inevitable. (There) are a lot of fake airtime cards in the market and many citizens have fallen victim by buying these fake cards. If currency notes can be forged why not scratch cards?"