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MTN Uganda eliminates mobile money charges amid coronavirus outbreak

KAMPALA (Reuters) – MTN Uganda, the country’s largest telecoms firm, has eliminated some charges on its mobile money platform to help spur greater use of digital transactions and discourage the use of cash as a way to potentially slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The company, which has 8 million mobile money users out of a total 13 million mobile phone subscribers, said it will not levy any fees on money sent between customers on its platform

Uganda has so far recorded nine cases of COVID-19.

The offer “is designed to reduce the risk of transmission by avoiding the physical exchange of currency notes,” MTN said in a statement issued late on Tuesday.

The move follows a similar approach in Kenya where last week the central bank announced measures to encourage the use of mobile money instead of cash to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus in the country.

A local unit of South Africa’s MTN Group, MTN Uganda is the east African country’s largest telecommunications firm. MTN also said it had introduced lower-priced data products to broaden affordability of connectivity as more people start to work from home to curb the spread of the virus.

Mobile money is a cell phone-enabled service that allows subscribers to transfer money and make payments for products and services like bills, food orders and ride hails. The platform has developed rapidly in Africa, where it is now widely used.

Uganda has about 23.6 million mobile phone subscribers, a little more than half of the country’s population.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Omar Mohammed and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Passengers use their mobile phones at the departure lounge of the Entebbe international airport in Entebbe

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