Airtime Scratch Cards to be Converted into Mobile Money

The minister for Information and Communications Technology in Uganda informed Parliament that customers who own unused airtime scratch cards will be entitled to have the value converted to mobile money. A ban against their use went into effect August 1, reported to have been for the purpose of preventing environmental damage caused by waste disposal of plastic cards, counterfeiting, fraud and illicit activities, such as the sale of scratch-off airtime cards in conjunction with illegally registered SIM cards which can provide a cloak against detection that is difficult to trace. Additional benefits include taxilibity, as the Uganda Revenue Authority can more easily and accurately determine the actual airtime sold by mobile network operators.

The airtime scratch card ban has been met with some criticism, including observations by the Parliament Speaker that poor planning could significantly impact upon people in outer and distant villages who have tradilitionally relied upon airtime cards for top-up. Pressure has also mounted on telecom agents and their diminishing income opportunities, as the elimination of scratch cards comes at a time when increased mobile money related taxes have resulted in reduced mobile money usage and have coincided with an earlier reduction of agent commissions by mobile network operators, such as Airtel.

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