Being an entrepreneur is not easy. Being an entrepreneur in Africa sucks. I have run a farming business and discovered the government does everything to finish you. In fact, your business survives in spite of government not because of it. From spurious legislation, extortion by security agencies and levying of creative taxes that are then squandered, government keeps finding new ways to break entrepreneurs. I was thus not surprised to see mobile money kiosks being destroyed in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, even though the authorities appear to have given approval for the kiosks to be set up in the first place.
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) descended upon all mobile money traders in a cleanup operation despite agents being able to provide documentary evidence that the kiosks were located at the places allocated to them by KCCA. The Tower Post reports:
Ssekamanya showed URN [Uganda Radio Network] a March 4th, 2021 letter proving that his company Ssentamu Muhusin Mobile Services was licensed to operate at the junction along the Ben Kiwanuka and Burton street. Ssekamanya says KCCA officials inspected the location before he set up the kiosks but was surprised to learn that KCCA was removing the kiosks.
Such documentation did not mean much for the government officials. KCCA officials proceeded to remove kiosks from the Central Business District and the outskirts of Kampala in Ndeeba along Entebbe road.
Neither was I surprised to see a callous official respond that the owners of the kiosks…
…should leave before they are helped to leave
Tremendous force was used in this operation.
KCCA law enforcement officers were escorted by military police and officers from the police Field Force Units
One can only imagine how safe the country would be if such coordination and gusto was deployed in fighting actual crime.
When the dust settles, how do we count the winners and the losers? I can only see losers here.
- Mobile money agents: lose their workplaces and sources of income despite having invested time and money (including the required fees for government approvals). The dependents of mobile money agents will also be affected.
- Mobile money customers: ease of accessing a mobile money agent is important. Customers will have to look for other points of service.
- Telcos: having their distribution channel disrupted has an impact on the business performance. Each point has costs in terms of point of sale material and costs incurred in training agents. Mobile money kiosks do not just pop up like mushrooms in the wet savannah.
- Government: surprise, surprise! Helping traders to leave is an own goal. If I have to explain this to government officials (and I suspect I do), then there is little hope for entrepreneurs.
If any reader can see winners in this scenario, please feel free to let me know. I will be busy ducking the government.