Early this week, Uganda Communications Commissions notified the public on the move to phase out physical airtime scratch cards replacing the same with digital alternatives.
“We hereby inform the general public that UCC has banned the use of scratch/airtime cards with effect from 31st July, 2018,” reads UCC directive in part.
According to a Press statement, customers were advised to use Mobile Money, Agent’s Easy Load, PayWay, Mula App, Pebuu, and any other electronic payment option.
Is the move radical? Is it applicable in areas without Mobile Money? Moreover, why the ban?
UCC consumer affairs manager, Ibrahim Bbossa, explains that the Sector is undergoing a technology revolution; most recently was the analogue to digital migration. ‘‘Technology has presented secure, convenient, and traceable means of managing airtime distribution and yet Digital airtime payment options have been around for a while and matured’’
He adds; There are concerns of criminals masquerading as airtime vendors & hawkers. UCC did require registration & accountability of all persons handling SIM cards and airtime products. Telecom operators demonstrated that accountability for retailers and hawkers was not practical
‘ ‘On accountability and traceability, operators demonstrated that once a scratch card is sold, property changes hands and an operator cannot be accountable for the actions of a retailer or hawker. They “Operators” proposed that this was only possible using digital payment systems.’’
IS THE MOVE RADICAL?
Numbers don’t lie. ‘ ‘Check the numbers. By the end of December 2017, there were 24,948,878 Mobile subscribers. 23,362,532 (93.6%) having active Mobile Money accounts. It is safe to say that 94% of mobile subscribers have the option to self-load airtime using mobile wallets.’’ Says Ibrahim Bbossa
6.2% of Mobile subscribers without Mobile wallets, operators have 160,351 Dealer Shops/Mobile Money agency network as of Dec 2017 & hundreds of retailers are registering for airtime selling using phones. These will sell you airtime the same way they have sold you scratch cards.
If you go for convenience and flexibility, the digital payments have matured. There are Electronic Top-up options like; Easy load, Electronic Voucher Credit, Mobile money,Me2U, and Electronic Payment options like Payway, Pebuu, etc
For the environmentally conscious, Electronic top up is a powerful E-waste Management mechanism on scratch cards. The move will partly reduce on e-waste since airtime cards are widely considered dangerous to the environment.
Remember it is free to deposit money to your Mobile wallet and it’s also free to load airtime for yourself or for another person, from your Mobile Money wallet. Either you do it yourself or someone does it for you. Dial *144*2# for Africell; *165*2# for MTN; *185*2# for Airtel
As part of the process leading up to 31st July 2017 deadline, telecom operators provided UCC with a weighted average period in which they would have consumed all scratch cards available in the market and public sensitisation.
The operators have gradually phased out the distribution of scratchcards and majority of users are already using E-Top up. They are also working out mechanism to redeem any scratch cards that will be still in the hands of customers by the deadline date.
Are vendors and hawkers going to lose jobs? , according to Mr. Bbosa, calls on Individuals to register with the operators distribution structures to continue selling airtime conveniently using Electronic top up. ‘‘Your phone becomes the tool of trade.’’ He said