Airtime Scratch Cards: Today is last day they can be used, minister insists

The Uganda Communications Commission and the Ministry of Information, Technology and National Guidance have maintained that today marks the last day for the use of airtime scratch cards.

In a statement submitted to Parliament, the minister of information, Frank Tumwebaze, said vending of airtime cards is directly linked to the selling of illegally registered sim cards and makes it impossible to digitally trace airtime recharge and top-ups.

“UCC, working with other security agencies, further consulted the sector players to recommend other practical measures through which government could eliminate SIM card related crime and improve the traceability of mobile phone users,” Mr Tumwebaze said.

A similar ban, on the sale of airtime scratch cards and sim cards by agents and hawkers not licenced by the Kampala Capital City Authority or local government authorities, was announced in March.

The directive was apparently due to pressure from security agencies in the wake of an increase in crime.

Mr Tumwebaze said that the use of electronic recharge systems was recommended as the most secure option and that it comes with other advantages. He said it is already a common practice in other countries, including South Sudan and Zimbabwe.

He said that a team from UCC has visited 186 outlets in 37 districts across the country to determine the progress made in adopting electronic airtime.

“The findings are that 99% of vendors assessed are already selling electronic airtime and 54% still had some scratch cards, which they expected to sell by 31st July,” he said.

“Vendors, stockists, and hawkers are being encouraged to register with the operator’s distribution structures to continue selling airtime conveniently using electronic top up.”

To allay fears that airtime vendors will lose their jobs, Mr Tumwebaze said vendors that have been selling airtime scratchcards were given an opportunity to instead sell it in a digital format using ordinary phones. He added that have been registered by the different telecoms.

The minister said the new system will create more opportunities as it will formalise the distribution of airtime. He added that it will improve revenue collection since the Uganda Revenue Authority can determine the correct amount of airtime credit sold by telecoms, and also reduce the waste caused by discarded scratch cards.