Telecom operators count losses as mobile-money remains shut
KAMPALA, FEBRUARY 20 – Businesses are counting huge losses as the clampdown on money transfer services and election related tension keep Kampala under a virtual lockdown for a third day running.
The Uganda Communication Commission ordered telecom operators to shut down social media platforms and mobile money transfer services late Wednesday, citing “threats to public order and safety.” Officials later explained there was a danger the services could be used to abet voter bribery or stir unrest.
However, a day after voting that was extended to February 19 in two polling areas in Kampala and Wakiso, mobile money services remain unavailable.
A source at one of the telecom companies said the suspension of mobile money was costing the industry billions daily. “Just work it out inversely. We are moving about 10 trillion shillings on a monthly basis so you can imagine how much this is costing us daily,” he said.
It is estimated that collectively, telecom operators are losing as much as $800,000 in foregone commissions on mobile money transactions for each the day the networks remain barred.
Downtown, the normally busy business hubs of Kikuubo and Kisseka market were still under lockdown Saturday morning as armed police patrolled the area. The CBD remained largely deserted, costing the economy hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business opportunity.
The clampdown on social media has attracted a backlash from angry users, while US Secretary of State John Kerry called President Museveni to express disapproval on Friday.