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Airtime Scratch Cards Officially Banned – Minister Explains Why

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The process towards the ban on airtime scratch cards was started when Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the sector operators informed the public about the plan in March 2018.

Hence forth the sector players agreed to set 31st July 2018 (today) as the deadline for the use of paper air time cards, after carefully evaluating the process necessary to effect the ban.

During today’s plenary, the minister for ICT, Frank Tumwebaze while reading a statement on the ban told members of parliament that several public notices have been running in the mass media to prepare customers for the shift to the electronic recharge system.

Tumwebaze said that consumers can now buy airtime using Easy Load, Mobile money, Me2U, Payway and several other electronic means, and that these services are available across the country in the same outlets that were selling airtime vouchers. He stated that mobile network operators have gradually phased out the distribution of scratch cards and the majority of users are already using E-Top up.

Tumwebaze added that to those clients who are still in possession of scratch cards, they are working out mechanisms to redeem them by 31st July 2018. “Mobile operators have already put in place system to facilitate conversion of any unutilized scratch cards into mobile money. Through this system, no customer will lose money. They will be refunded for any unutilized air time cards,” Tumwebaze said.

He further told parliament that telecom companies are working with their agents and distributors across the country to ensure that there is seamless transition from the old system to the new system.

The proposal to wipe out airtime scratch cards first received some criticism from some MPs. However, the minister reminded parliament of the past killings and crimes committed using mobile phones.

“Hon. Speaker and colleagues, we all remember that early this year, our country experienced an unprecedented surge in the number of crimes committed using mobile phones, including the rampant kidnaps and murders of several women, such as Susan Magara and the Entebbe women. In order to improve the security situation, in March 2018, Cabinet agreed to the streamlining of Sim Card registration processes and an inter-Ministerial Committee of Cabinet involving Internal Affairs, Security and ICT was tasked to engage with Telecom operators with a view of finding solutions to the phone-based security threats.” Tumwebaze said.

He added that several measures were implemented, including requiring all telecom operators to install biometric card readers such that all sim card registrations and sim swaps are done only upon electronic verification of the biometric details of the sim card applicant.

Tumwebaze stated that UCC and the security agencies recommended that vending of air time cards was directly linked to the selling of illegally registered sim cards and would facilitate airtime recharge and top-ups manually without any digital tracing.

“The use of electronic recharge systems was therefore recommended as the most viable and secure option,” Tumwebaze said. It has improved the process of directly tracing vendors/hawkers/stockists and eventually their customers who procure airtime electronically.

Vendors who have been selling scratch cards have been given the opportunity to sell the same airtime in a digital format using an ordinary phone as a tool of trade, and have been duly registered by the telecom operators. There is therefore no inconvenience to anybody since the same people and outlets that were selling the paper scratch cards are the same points of sale for the electronic recharge.

Tumwebaze added that digitization of airtime shall create more job opportunities through formalised distribution, contrary to earlier worries that the process will lead to massive job losses.  It will also improve revenue assurance by Government, since with the electronic system, URA can determine the amount of Airtime sold by Telecom operators and agents and thus rule out any tax under declarations.

Furthermore, the use of electronic recharge systems will protect the public against purchase of fake air time scratch cards intended to defraud unsuspecting members of the public and enhance security measures on telecom related services because there shall be traceability in the entire transaction.

 

By Stella Mugoya

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NOT OVER YET: Bank Of Uganda Files Notice Of Appeal Challenging Judge Wangutusi’s Judgment, They Want Sudhir To Vomit Shs397 Billion..

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BOU Governor Tumusiime Mutebile and Sudhir Ruparelia

The Central Bank through their lawyers of Byamugisha and company Advocates have filed a notice of appeal in the court of appeal challenging High Court commercial division judge David Wangutusi‘s judgment to recover over 100 million dollars (Shs397 billion) from tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia and Meera  Investment Limited. 

On Monday, The Head of Commercial Court, David Wangutusi dismissed a case in which Bank of Uganda (BoU) Sudhir Ruparelia for allegedly fleecing his own bank (Crane Bank in receivership) of Shs397 billion in fraudulent transactions. The Central Bank was seeking to recover the Shs397bn.

Wangutusi also ordered BoU to pay Sudhir’s legal costs. In his ruling, Wangutusi observed that Crane Bank in receivership at the time of instituting the commercial suit against the businessman and his Meera Investments Company, was none existent, hence never had powers to sue.

Wangutusi added that Bank of Uganda lacked legal basis to sue Sudhir for allegedly transferring sums money from the internal accounts of the defunct Crane Bank which were not mapped on the financial institution’s balance sheet.  BOU claims that the learned judge errored when he dismissed their suit because there was credible evidence that Sudhir withdrew 80,000,000 dollars from Crane Bank as payments to persons, companies and entities for Sudhir’s benefits. 

 The central bank further claims that Sudhir withdraw Us9.27m through Technology Associates which has no contract with Crane Bank or Meera investments. The central bank wants the three justices of the court of appeal to declare that Wangutusi errored in facts and law to dismisses their suit against the city tycoon. The bank claims that Sudhir mismanages the tax payer’s money worth shs400bn which was withdrawn from the treasury to save Crane Bank. 

Tycoon Sudhir celebrated the dismissal of the BOU suit and revealed to journalists that he has defeated BOU mafias who stole his bank.

By Sengooba Alirabaki

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OPINION: Free Trade For African Countries: Continental Block Will Spur Trade And Develop Africa

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In his book, “Sowing The Mustard Seed”, Second Edition, President Museveni articulates the case for Pan-Africanism with a slant, in part, to business dividends. “The milk production of Uganda is now 2 billion litres, up from 200 million litres in 1986. Uganda, however, currently, consumes only 800 million litres per annum”. He adds that; “What will happen to the rest then? This is true of bananas, goats, cattle, fruits and other products? Our second layer of saviours are the East Africans, the South Sudanese, the Congolese and other regional partners”.

The President has been, and remains a strong advocate of regional integration in Africa. Now, further to the likes of EAC and COMESA, the big one is here. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) endorsed by African Union (AU) Member States in Kigali, in March 2018, takes effect next year. This, after the ratification of the operational aspects of AfCFTA, at an AU extra-ordinary Summit in Niamey, Niger on 7th July 2019 – The New Vision, 20th July 2019.

The essence of Niamey pact is that Africa’s Free Trade Area will be operational effective July 2020. In Niamey, the necessary instruments were signed by the required minimum 22 AU Member States, including Uganda. It is a major break-through for business across the continent. With 55 Member countries, Africa’s Free Trade Area will dwarf ALL trading blocks, including the EU, in terms of membership. 

AfCFTA is bringing together a combined market of 1.2 billion people and economies with an aggregate GDP of USD 2.5 trillion. It is a huge market under which countries in Africa, will trade with each other, minus tariff barriers. AfCFTA will spur industrialization, grow economies, create jobs, strengthen indigenous capabilities and ease Africa’s vulnerability to external trading shocks.

For Uganda, niche items include fresh, organic grain foodstuffs, which have ready market in countries like Congo, Angola, Senegal, Namibia and the Saharan, North African Countries. Our other niche items include milk, fruits, fish, beef and household consumer items. Uganda is also progressively building capacity in oil and gas and services like tourism and ICT innovations, from which we stand to reap, among others. 

Intra-Africa business will slash Africa’s trade deficit, considering the continent imports food items alone, worth USD 60 billion annually. Relatedly, under the current skewed trade regime, intra-Africa business is at 16% while that with Europe, for instance, is at 65%.

Therefore, the AfCFTA will unlock Africa’s massive economic potential, right from the short term. Indeed, intra-African trade is now projected to rise to 60% by 2022. Retaining the USD 60 billion Africa is “donating” to Europe in annual food imports, will greatly boost the continent socio-economically.

In a riveting address, at a Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture at Makerere University on 31st August 2017, President Museveni submitted that; “Africa is a huge continent with a land area of 11.7 million square miles, which makes it 12 times bigger than India, 4 times bigger than USA and China each and more than 2 times the size of Russia. We are somewhat working on economic integration through the Regional Economic Communities; although we should be more religious and focused on this issue”. 

Credit to him and other regional leaders for bringing AfCTFA to life. We should, therefore, position Uganda tap into this huge continental market. Priority considerations include accelerating industrialisation, improving product/service value chains, fast-tracking oil, gas, energy and minerals’ development. Others are expanding transport and ICT infrastructure, enhancing agricultural production and aligning our fiscal policies, as may be applicable.

Moses Watasa

Commissioner, Communication and Information Dissemination

MINISTRY OF ICT & NATIONAL GUIDANCE

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Battle For Supremacy At Vision Group As Bukedde News Editor Fires His Deputy’s ‘Diehard’ Reporters

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All is not well at Robert Kabushenga’s Vision Group premises especially Bukedde Newspaper newsroom.

According to multiple sources from the industrial area based printing and publishing house, the war is between Bukedde news editor Ssalongo Richard Kayira and his deputy Semei Wesaali.

Sources told the Grapevine that the silent war erupted when Kayira, the head of the news room published an internal memo with a list of news reporters fired from Bukedde newspaper.  According to sources, Kayira also ordered the security at the gate not to allow the journalists on the list to enter the company premises.

“The list was published but they did not inform us that we were going to be fired,” one of the journalists on the list complained.

The affected journalists petitioned their boss Godfrey Kulubya the head of all the local newspapers at Vision Group.  In their petition, the over 50 reporters told Kulubya that the list is discriminative.

‘The list targeted some individuals because they are diehards to editor Semei Wesaali. Kayira thinks that they are helping him take his position,” one of the reporters who petitioned Kulubya stated. They further explained to Kulubya that there are names of people which were left out yet they are poor performers when compared to some of the people on the list, they even cited some names.

Kulubya was told that most of the journalists left out were working under Kayira in his new DGF project.

On Monday this week, Kulubya called an emergency meeting in Bukedde new room and asked for a written explanation from Kayira why he fired staff without his knowledge or that of the Chief Executive Officer Robert Kabushenga.  Kulubya denounced the list and asked the journalists in the meeting to tell their friends who were fired to come back and work with immediate effect.

“For your information the competition is high so you cannot start firing staff, if it is necessary, let us follow the necessary procedures,” Kulubya was quoted telling the newsroom.

Kulubya further told the meeting that they have plans of laying off a number of reporters so that they can remain with a few competitive ones.

Sources told this website that Vision group bosses are trying to set up new rules where journalists multi task for the various platforms.

According to the new plan, a journalist, when assigned to cover a story, is supposed to file it for New Vision newspaper, Bukedde newspaper, Bukedde radio and Bukedde TV.

When the news about the new plan fell in the ears of reporters, some panicked and bought video cameras and recorders to quickly adapt to the new rules.

When the Grapevine talked to some of the reporters who were not on the list, they disclosed that the journalists who were fired are lazy and don’t want to work. They are just using Bukedde newspaper as an address to extort money from the public.  

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