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    Ugandans Happy As UCC Withdraws Mtn License

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    By Otim Nape
    Millions of Ugandans are in the happy mood and praying for the worst after regulator UCC refuses to automatically renew MTN Uganda’s telecom operational license. Reliable industry sources have revealed that every telecom must renew its license every 10 years and that the license for MTN was last renewed in 2007.

    Since the year 2007, many things have changed and millions of unhappy Ugandans are every day
    reporting complaints to UCC calling for tough action against MTN for cheating them and engaging in many other exploitative and unethical practices. Besigye’s PA Muhinda Ronald is one of the Ugandans praying
    to see that UCC doesn’t renew MTN’s license. Muhinda has been making noise accusing MTN of cheating him on his MBs and daily bundles which he buys and they are chopped instantly. Many other Ugandans are
    unhappy with MTN following claims that it aids spying on their phone calls by security agencies mostly during campaign time. In the past, the FDC party which has millions of members and supporters publicly burnt millions of MTN lines accusing the giant telecom of encouraging the security apparatus to spy on them. Since that time big people in FDC like Kizza Besigye have never owned an MTN line. Besigye uses only airtel line which starts with 0752. He keeps saying airtel is safer compared to MTN, the very reason he doesn’t use it. Other Ugandans who aren’t in politics at all accuse MTN of exploiting them by charging them much more on phone calls they make than airtel which gives them many free calls under its offers like pakalast, mega corporate bonus etc. When it comes to lending airtime, still majority Ugandans are for airtel because until recently the maximum MTN would lend was airtime for 1,500.
    PROFIT REPATRIATION
    On a more serious note, Ugandans have also been complaining to UCC on the issue of profit repatriation. The South African telecom giant repatriates 600bn back home every 6 months and whereas this isn’t against the law, it’s something that annoys many Ugandans seeing MTN as milking the cow without feeding it.  This means in a whole year, they repatriate 1.2trillion shillings leaving Uganda’s economy bleeding yet they make all this money from this same market where they are ever busy exploiting the poor. Customers in Uganda have rewarded mostly airtel by migrating there and spending much on Airtel airtime because it often comes with generous bonus packages.  The latest UCC statistics show that MTN has 18,048,353 registered subscribers and it’s closely followed by the pro-people Airtel at 10,076,051. Africell is in number three with 3,588,583 registered subscribers. UTL is number 4, Smart telecom number 5 with 113,595 subscribers followed by K2 telecom, Vodafone with 62,998 and Smile with 19,809 and Tangarine with 2,722 subscribers.  UTL is number 4 because it had management problems, Aga Khan’s Smart is number 5 because the market has rejected them, Vodafone in number 7 because its generally a new entrant and K2 is in number 6 because of the exploitation by the Lebanese who own Africell and this is a story we shall be exposing in details in the coming days. In fact for MTN, Uganda is one of the best markets because the government has been allowing them to charge customers the way they want and to repatriate the profits the way they want even when this is clearly contrary to what the people want. When it comes to top jobs and managerial positions, most of them are given to expatriates from South Africa and other countries as if there are no indigenous Ugandans who went to school.  The biggest Ugandan in MTN is Chief Technical Officer Goodian Kyomukama and the rest (CEO, CFO, CMO, Sales head etc) are foreign expatriates earning salary in dollars. Reliable sources show that one of the reasons why the government wants to revamp Utl is to make sure MTN’s practice of repatriating more than 1trillion per year back to South Africa is stopped. When Utl becomes the leading telecom, then MTN will finally be eliminated and forced out of this market because they are just exploiting and they don’t care the way Ugandans suffer. The public says MTN has the worst customer care and sometimes the company blames this on the large customer base which overwhelms them.

    Table showing market share for different telecom companies operating in the Ugandan market

    MTN LOSES TO AIRTEL
    Because customers are ever running away from the MTN because of the way the South African telecom exploits them and cheats on their MBs, Airtel has progressed very well. Its customer base has grown
    especially on voice calls and MTN is now very scared of Airtel and other upcoming players. Because of the bonus packages it has, Airtel today has the highest number of registered telephone lines that are used for voice communication which is the same as traditional phone calls. Most Ugandans use their airtel lines (both 070 and 075…) to make and receive phone calls than they use their MTN lines. This has resulted in Airtel boasting of the highest number of active lines when it comes to voice calls and revenue made thereof. Airtel is also doing well on data sales because customers rightly realize that Airtel data or MBs is cheaper and faster when using internet than the MTN service which is slow and keeps chopping people’s MBs. MTN is again more costly for customers who use money mobile to pay bills like TV charges, water and electricity utility bills. Having lost out to Airtel which customers say isn’t exploiting like the MTN, the South African telecom giant has concentrated on mobile money transactions and this is the only safest area they still have to properly beat Airtel. Indeed one of the industry sources we interviewed said most of the registered active subscriber lines registered on MTN are only used for mobile money transactions and a little bit of internet/data business otherwise those MTN lines would be totally idle by now because of MTN’s very exploitative charges. Reliable sources say UCC will take some good time reviewing the complaints from the public before deciding to renew MTN’s license for another 10 years or not. As per now, MTN is on air but with no valid license because what they got in 2007 has already expired.  In the meantime, the public eagerly awaits the UCC final decision but millions of them will be happy and they will appreciate UCC boss Godfrey Mutabazi more if he shocks the public by not renewing MTN license or renew it with very strict conditions being given out to ensure the public exploitation stops. As for the FDC, they dislike MTN so much that even when they are fundraising they mostly give the public Airtel lines and they are ever discouraging MTN lines.
    MTN IN OTHER EAC PLACES
    In the East African region, Kenya is the biggest economy but MTN makes more money in Uganda than Kenya. This is because Kenya licensed them to only offer internet services. Kenya has only 3 mobile telecom operators and denied MTN the license on grounds they can’t afford a 4th operator.
    VERY STRANGE SITUATION; knowledgeable telecom industry sources said it’s very strange and awkward that a big player like MTN can wake up one day when they have no valid license. “It simply means that behind the scenes, there has been a lot of issues of disagreement with UCC concerning their non compliance otherwise their license would have been renewed months earlier before the current one expires” explained a source adding that “even as of now they shouldn’t be on air except if the regulator gave them an interim license which can’t be more than 3 months”. The source added that when UCC is giving you the license to operate as a telecom operator, it comes with obligations which you must fulfill or else your license is revoked or not renewed once it expires. The licensing obligations are in the areas like making sure the service is good and satisfying to the customers and to ensure the area you were licensed to cover is getting the service. The license also comes with certain financial obligations and UCC receives quarterly reports showing compliance in each of the license obligation areas. Sources say there are many issues and unanswered questions concerning the quality and authenticity of the quarterly reports MTN has been submitting to UCC. Every telecom operator is obligated to surrender 2% of their gross income which UCC uses to capitalize the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) which aims at deepening access to internet in rural areas. “UCC is allowed by the law to refuse to renew your license as a telecom if there are many service complaints from the public and customers which seems to be the case for MTN. This must be the reason their license wasn’t renewed by UCC before the current one expires and if the law was to be strictly followed without any political interference, UCC should switch them off now unless Mr. Mutabazi gives them some interim license which can’t exceed three months. Any Ugandan can now go to court and get a court order for MTN to close shop” the source added. Speaking separately, a source in UCC confirmed that MTN has been losing ground to Airtel especially for traditional voice calls. Whereas Airtel is now the biggest on voice revenue, MTN is mostly thriving on social media calls and data sales but mostly mobile money. It’s a public secret that the traditional voice calls will be totally phased out in the period of three years from now. By that time everyone will be calling using skype, facebook, whatsapp and other social media platforms using the internet.

    MTN CEO Brian Gouldie

    SELFISH SOUTH AFRICANS: MTN’s other problem why Ugandans feel they haven’t benefited much for the very many years it has operated in this market, concerns staffing and the composition of its top most
    management. The biggest position a Ugandan holds there is Chief Technical Officer Goodian Kyomukama who by now should be the CEO or something like that because he is hard working, honest and has accumulated enough experience.  As per now, the MTN CEO, CFO, CMO and head of sales are all foreign expatriates paid in dollars yet we have Ugandans who are even more qualified and can do the job better. UMEME and Stanbic Bank have set the example that a Ugandan can be CEO and do a good job in those big companies. At MTN, the story is different.
    Ugandans can only serve in subordinate positions. “They have operated in this market long enough and by now Ugandans should have been trained and trusted to steer the company from the very top but deliberately that isn’t happening because the South Africans’ deliberate approach is to exploit the economy without growing it” said the telecom industry source. In the board there is Charles Mbire whose voting rights can’t equal that of the South Africans when it comes to making big decisions. Mbire is a former PA to Gen Salim Saleh which could explain the mileage and connections his involvement has had for MTN. But as per now, UCC is determined to enforce the law whether MTN likes it or not. The fact that the license had to expire to the last day without another one, and UCC continues saying we are still reviewing, is an indicator that all isn’t well between the regulator and MTN. MTN mostly repatriates profits in hundreds of billions (they take in dollars) which drains our economy dry. The only money they invest here goes into network-related investments e.g. fiber. They also invest a very negligible small fraction of their money in CSR for example the MTN marathon. They haven’t invested in anything else outside things concerning network improvement. Their repatriation of profits is the reason our economy is ever diluted and facing scarcity of dollars. UCC is also concerned that MTN is looking at only profits and can’t show any sense of responsibility to ensure Uganda’s sustainability as required of them as a corporate citizen. The UCC source gave the example of MTN refusing to invest in network infrastructure in some parts of Uganda because people there are too poor and can’t afford telecom services even though there is potential of them affording it in future. MTN and other telecoms have a duty to support such communities to grow economically and start consuming their telecom services. This is another reason M7’s government wants to revive UTL because that is the Uganda owned telecom which can make such investments in areas which aren’t immediately profitable. “MTN  has a lot of capacity but they can only invest putting up a mast in an area after seeing there are people to start using their services yet in some cases, you have to be patient and invest in long term prospects” the UCC source added. In the East African region, MTN operates in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya which limits them to only data services and not telecom. Uganda permits them to repatriate profits and to employ the expatriates the way they like and this is one reason they make serious super normal profits in Uganda. They considered the Tanzanian market but abandoned the idea after seeing the government was very strict and protectionist of its citizens against telecoms that come to exploit them. Uganda is one market they entered early which also partly answers the question why it’s their best performing market.

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    CRIME

    Stanbic Bank In Trouble, Client Petitions Court After She Was Defrauded Of Shs68m Via Flexi Pay…

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    Stanbic Bank CEO Anne Jjuuko whose bank is under fire

    Nakku Joweria a resident of Kyebando has sued Stanbic Bank Uganda limited for failing in its duty of protecting her saving account leading to defrauding her of shillings 68 million which was withdrawn from her account in a period of 24 hours through Flexi pay an application she had never registered for.

    In a court case filed before the Commercial division of the High Court of Uganda and coming up for directions in the registrar Christa Namutebi’s chambers, on the 24th June, 2024 at 9:40am, Nakku Joweria through his lawyers of Kimanje Nsibambi Advocates contends that between 7th and 8th February, 2023, there was unauthorized withdrawal of 68 million shillings from her savings account No. 903000026244 via the Flexi Pay Banking, a platform of Stanbic Bank and a total of 28 unauthorized transactions were conducted by fraudsters who fraudulently accessed her account undetected by the bank.

    She questions how a savings account which had a transaction limit was significantly exceeded during the unauthorized and undetected fraudulent transactions which led to her losing her’ money.

    “Our client has been a loyal client of Stanbic bank since 2001 way before the implementation of the FlexiPay system and at no point did she sign up for or activate the flexi pay on her savings account. The 28 unauthorized withdrawals from our clients account using four unknown Airtel lines raises serious questions and/ or lapses on the part of the bank for which we hold the bank specifically liable for the loss since it was in a better position to detect and prevent this fraud had it exercised reasonable care to detect these suspicious 28 unauthorized transactions that took place within 24 hours on a savings account that was rarely operated by our client,” reads the documents in parts.

    She also questions the effectiveness of the bank’s authentication protocols with their flexi pay system, effectiveness of the transaction monitoring to the extent of allowing 28 unauthorized transactions within 24 hours using four unknown Airtel lines and significantly exceeding the account limit.

    Nakku wants court to direct Stanbic Bank to reimburse 68 million to her account that was fraudulently withdrawn and pay her the costs and damages.

    On 6th February 2023, Nakku Joweria lost her phones to the robbers on her way to work at around 9pm. She reported the incident to police at 9am and to the telecom companies on the 7th February 2023.

    However, the telecom companies MTN and Airtel couldn’t process the new simcards because she had misplaced her original National Identity card.

    The robbers used her MTN number to open up a wallet on the Flexi pay which number had four other Airtel numbers that don’t belong to her which they used to make 28 unauthorized withdraws of 68 million shillings from her Stanbic bank saving account on the 7th and 8th February in a space of only 24 hours.

    When she went to withdraw some money from her account on the 6th, March 2023 that’s when she realized that her money was fraudulently withdrawn from her account.

    She wrote to the bank manager complaining about the matter and the bank promised to do thorough investigations to reveal how the money was withdrawn by the fraudsters.

    Through her lawyers of Kimanje Nsibambi Advocates, she wrote a demand notice to Stanbic Bank manager to reimburse her money since it was their weakness and fault for failure to efficiently protect her account.

    The bank through Twine Arnold, the senior legal advisor, Risk and Dispute Management wrote back with an out of court settlement request.

    However, the bank had proposed to reimburse only 34 million out of the 68 million on the premise that the settlement shall not be taken as admission of liability by any of the parties, a proposal she rejected and instead thought for legal redress in the commercial court.

     

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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    MY MONEY

    Minister Kabanda Panics As Traders Plan To Front Ssekitto To Battle Her For Kampala Central MP Seat…

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    KACITA'S Issa Ssekitto and Minister Minsa Kabanda

    Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) spokesperson Issa Ssekitto has confirmed that come 2026, he is pondering contesting for the position of Kampala Central Division Member of Parliament as an independent.

    Ssekitto revealed that his decision was based on the number of requests he has received from desperate traders who think that the only way to fight bad policies and laws made against them is to have their own in the parliament to argue their case.

    It should be noted that when traders met President Museveni in May 2024 at Kololo independence ground, they warned legislators in parliament who have been passing laws against them that they are going to sponsor their own candidates against them come 2026.

    They claimed that the legislators and other leaders who they showered with votes in the previous elections have betrayed them and it is high time they take over the country’s leadership.

    Sources inside KACITA told theGrapevine that Nagenda Musoke their chairperson also plans to stand for a Member of Parliament in one of the constituents in Mukono district.

    John Kabanda also plans to stand as councilor representing Kampala Central Division on the Lord Mayor’s Council.

    The traders insist that Kampala city and Metropolitan senior minister Hajjat Minsa Kabanda has not helped them as a minister and accuse her of sidelining with their tormentors, especially the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).

    Since 2023, Minister Kabanda has been conducting clandestine political mobilization to replace Muhammad Nsereko who declared that he is not going to contest in 2026.

    Because of Kabanda’s declaration, Bobi Wine’s elder brother Fred Nyanzi Ssentamu shifted his interest from contesting for Kampala Central MP Seat to Lord Mayor fearing that chances are high that Kabanda will defeat him.

    Traders want parliament to remove EFRIS and reduce taxes on commodities especially imported items.

    However, President Museveni assured them that his government will not accept their prayers because they are against the country’s development.

     

    By Hadijjah Namagembe

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    CELEBRITY GOSSIP

    Bank Bosses In Trouble For Allowing Sanctioned M7 Gov’t Official To Access Money On Her Account..

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    L-R: Agnes Nandutu, Goretti Kitutu and Speaker Anita Among were all recently sanctioned

    The Western powers have kicked off investigation into allegations that bank bosses in Kampala allowed President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s sanctioned government officials to access and use their financial services.

    Sources in one of the top banks intimated to theGrapevine that their boss has been summoned at their bank headquarters in the United Kingdom to record a statement detailing how the incident happened and why.

    Sources claim that this senior government official was informed early that President Museveni was briefed about her sanctions and when she asked her lawyers what the sanctions meant, they quickly advised her with immediate effect to rush to the bank and withdraw her money which she did.

    “She came herself and withdrew her money and went with it, but we don’t know whether our bosses were already informed about the sanctions,” a source said.

    This bank source narrated to us a scenario where the former Inspector General of Police Gen. Edward Kale Kayihura’s close relative was denied the opportunity to open a bank account in their bank on grounds that his father was sanctioned and their bank was not allowed to do any financial business with him.

    Recently, the State Minister for Lands Dr. Sam Mayanja revealed that retired High Court Judge Moses Mukiibi told him that because of the sanctions, he could no longer access his money in the banks.

    He added that they asked President Museveni to intervene.

    However, the judiciary last week issued a statement noting that Justice Mukiibi is receiving his retirement benefits as a retired judge.

    Veteran journalist Joseph Tamale Mirundi explained that western powers give a sanctioned official six months to clear whatever they have in their respective countries including repatriating their relatives from their countries.

    But Alex Waiswa Mufumbiro, the National Unity Platform (NUP) deputy spokesperson said that the sanctions take immediate effect and all the money on bank accounts and properties of the sanctioned persons in foreign countries is frozen immediately when the sanctions are announced.

    Mufumbiro’s explanation was supported by a powerful security officer who told theGrapevine that recently, President Museveni posted one of his sanctioned security chief to one of the neighbouring countries; however this officer failed to access his bank account and when he tried to fix his ATM card into the ATM machine, it was swallowed by the machine and he immediately called Museveni pleading with him to withdraw him from the said country.

    Recently, the United Kingdom sanctioned Annet Anita Among the speakers of parliament, Agnes Nandutu the former State Minister for Karamoja affairs and Mary Goretti Kitutu the former senior minister for Karamoja affairs.

    Other government officials who were sanctioned include; Gen. Kayihura, Lt. Gen. Peter Elwelu, Maj. Gen. Abel Kandiho, Maj. Gen. Sabiiti Muzeyi, Maj. Gen. Don Nabasa and a number of others including members of parliament.

     

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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