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Bank Of Uganda Issues Stringent Mobile Money Rules

Bank Of Uganda Issues Stringent Mobile Money Rules

Mobile money agents across the country will, with immediate effect, start demanding a valid identity card before a customer transacts more than Shs1m on the platform, according to a new directive by the Bank of Uganda (BoU).
The directive to all mobile money service providers includes deposits and withdraw transactions. Following the enactment and operationalization of the National Payment Systems Act and subsequent regulations, the Bank of Uganda assumed full responsibility and mandate over the regulation of mobile money services in Uganda.

“The Bank of Uganda observed a rise in the usage of mobile money platforms for online fraud and scams. Mobile money systems have occasionally been the target of cybercrime carried out by agents working with criminals,” Mr Andrew Elwana, the acting director of communications at BoU, said in response to a  request for clarification.

“Therefore, in compliance with Section 55(1)b of the National Payments Systems Act, 2020 and Regulation 7 (h) of the National Payment Systems (Agents) Regulations, 2021, all financial transactions involving Shs1m or more that are carried out at authorized agent locations and operator centers on digital financial service platforms must be completed after the holder’s identity has been verified using a valid national ID (for Ugandans), passport, refugee ID/attestation letter, or alien ID (for foreigners)”.

While they welcomed the directive, a source privy to the discussions between the Mobile Money companies and BoU told us that the companies presented requests to BoU to vary the directive and allow smooth implementation. BoU, was informed and was amenable to the requests.
We have seen a “compliance requirement for mobile money transactions of Shs1m and above” issued by Payway to its retail network.

“We are issuing an important compliance directive in line with the Bank of Uganda’s recent requirements on customer verification for digital financial transactions. Starting April 19, 2024, for any mobile money transactions involving sums of Shs1 million or above, whether withdrawals or deposits, it is mandatory to verify the customer’s identity. Customers must provide a valid identification card,” the note says.
When contacted, MTN Uganda Spokesperson Martin Sebuliba said the company was still verifying the information.

While Mr David Birungi, Airtel Uganda’s public relations manager, said: “Yes, we received the BoU directive, and implementation is underway. We truly appreciate the spirit of the directive.”
He added: “We will continue to engage the regulators on the challenges the directive will face.
For example, your average Mobile Money agent has no means to verify the authenticity of your ID. We will roll out fingerprint scanners. This will take time.”

He further said: “The registers (books) will have people’s personal data (NINs and all). That’s a rlot of personal data out there. That said, we are committed to working with everyone to secure the ecosystem for the benefit of everyone.”
On privacy concerns, Mr Elwana said:  “The information collected from the customer by the operator or agent for each transaction must be 100 percent protected, as provided for in Regulation 19 of the National Payment Systems (Consumer Protection) Regulations, 2022 and the Data Protection and Privacy Act, 2019”.

The directive is likely to ignite controversy in the industry given that many Ugandans are yet to acquire National Identity Cards and many transact with sim cards registered in other people’s names. The implementation is also likely to raise concerns for the safety of the security documents required given that people transacting Shs1m or more daily will be required to move original documents for verification.

Mobile money companies will also be required to put verification infrastructure with each of the authorised agents, a cost that will likely trickle back to the customers. The verification needed in the new directive is akin to that needed to get a new sim card and challenges like network outages and technical know-how will come into play.

 

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