Airtel, MTN bring back fees for mobile money transactions

Person to person and mobile to bank transfers to attract 50% fee for 30 days

Uganda’s two largest telecom firms, MTN Uganda and Airtel Uganda, said they will reintroduce charges on mobile money transactions starting Tuesday, ending the zero-fee charging structure announced in March.

A joint statement by the two companies said that mobile money transactions on the same network and mobile to bank transactions “will be gradually reintroduced at a 50% discount to standard tariffs for a period of 30 days.”

However, transactions on the mobile money platforms between customers and merchants “will continue to attract zero transaction charges for the next 30 days,” the statement added.

In March, the two companies removed charges on mobile money and mobile to bank transactions to encourage use of the platforms over physical exchange of currency notes. This was due to public concerns that the coronavirus could be transmitted by cash — although “scientific evidence suggests that the probability of transmission via banknotes is low when compared with other frequently-touched objects, such as credit card terminals or PIN pads.”

According to its financials for 2019, MTN Uganda has a 54.7% market share and closed out the year with 12.6m subscribers. It recorded an 18.8% year on year increase in mobile money subscribers to 7.4m, and a rise of 25.6% in fintech revenue — which includes mobile money, insurance, airtime lending and e-commerce — to 1.6bn rand (Shs417.3bn).

MTN Uganda subscriber growth
* (‘000)
  2018 2019 % change
Subscribers* 11,270 12,642 12.2%
Active data subscribers* 2,236 3,402 52.1%
Mobile money subscribers* 6,264 7,441 18.8%
Smartphones* (Uganda) 2,166 2,710 25.1%
Market share (%) 53.8% 54.7% 0.9%

Uganda is one of only two African countries — the other is Gabon — where Airtel’s mobile money penetration exceeds 50%, according to recent results released by the London-listed Airtel Africa. The results, for the year ending March, show that mobile money subscriber penetration in Uganda increased to 56.6% from 53.4% the previous year.