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The directive by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to have all SIM cards registered in seven days will affect daily business activities of over 700 billion shillings.

According to  World Bank’s Global Findex data, 35% of Uganda’s adult population, or 6.7 million people, have mobile money accounts and by July last year, there were over 2 million transactions daily, trading Shs101 billion.

It’s against this background that the ICT Association of Uganda (ICTAU) has today warned that the deadline set by UCC for the registration of simcards will affect the already vulnerable economy.

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ANNOUNCED SIM CARD SWITCH OFF: Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Executive Director Eng Godfrey Mutabazi. Photo credit/insider.co.ug

In a letter addressed to the UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi, ICTAU Chairman Albert Mucunguzi indicates: ‘The 7 day deadline for verification of over 20 million Customers in the sector is stringent and impossible to achieve by both the Customers and the Telcoms. The timelines further include the 4 days Easter holiday break through which the Telcoms will be closed and Customers will be busy celebrating the festivities.’

According to Mucunguzi, Uganda’s economy increasingly relies on mobile money transfers and related services.

‘This directive, as written, could weaken the mobile money ecosystem by disconnecting large numbers of users, thereby causing harm to the overall economy. This outcome would likely have a disproportionate impact on rural customers who rely on mobile money services as a matter of survival, and are less likely to have the National IDs necessary to complete the re-verification process,’ the letter adds.

It is worth noting that such customers are currently regarded as compliant for Mobile Money registration which is regulated by Bank of Uganda.

The letter further states that it is impractical for all customers of mobile network operators to perform the tasks required for re-verification as per the directive. “This timeline also does not cater for customers who are traveling or living abroad,” the letter adds.

ICTAU also complained about the strictness on identification documents saying, that whereas the directive only allows for the use of National IDs as acceptable/legal identification documents for Ugandan Citizens, a great number of people do not have their National IDs for various reasons and are therefore at risk of having their SIM cards deactivated for factors not within their control as consumers of telecommunication services.

“This is compounded by the fact that the law regarding SIM registration, the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act 2010, and the Regulations thereunder is more permissive and allows the use of other forms of identification documents which are accepted for several other services including government services,” the ICTAU boss wrote and  urged UCC to reconsider its directive.

‘We further recommend that mobile network operators be given the ability to verify National IDs prior to any new registration exercise or deadline, and that the identification document requirements be relaxed’ Mucungunzi adds.

Last year Bank of Uganda (BoU) Director Financial Stability, Charles Augustine Abuka, said that the amount of money transacted through mobile money in the year ended December 2015 was Sh32.5 trillion.