What mobile transfer charges could mean for banks, a boon?

Dar es Salaam. Debate on the newly-introduced mobile money transaction levies is already raging, with analysts looking at the potential impact on the banking sector.

Already, some users of mobile money services have started thinking of opting for similar commercial bank services that are relatively cheaper by comparison.

The government introduced a levy ranging from Sh10 to Sh10,000 for mobile money transactions involving between Sh1,000 and Sh10 million.

The question now is whether this will ultimately make commercial banks the winner.

Analysts hold diverse opinions about the possible impact of the change on banks - given the fact that they, too, have integrated their services with mobile money services.

Prof Samuel Wangwe, an economist, said it was a good thing for the government to expand its taxation base. But, the new mobile money levy was too sudden, catching a majority of Tanzanians unawares.

“This should have been done gradually not in one go as it has been done and it is in danger of destroying the mobile money normality as more people will go for a cheaper mode of transferring their cash even if it means staying in queues for hours,” he said.

He noted that it was a sad thing that Tanzania was moving some steps backward in financial inclusion while other countries were going forward.

For his part, Prof Delphin Rwegasira of the University of Dar es Salaam said the new mobile money levies will make Tanzanians inventive by coming up with new ways to facilitate their transactions.

“Obviously, many will go back to using their banks through Sim banking. But, remember: there are only 17-20 percent of Tanzanians who have access to banks. So my guess is that a majority will even use ‘motorcycle taxis’ to take money from one place to another,” he said.

He noted that banks also have agents placed at many places whose cost of sending or withdrawing money is cheaper compared to the new mobile transactions.

But, UDSM’s economist Abel Kinyondo differed, saying while the cost of bank transactions was lower compared to mobile money transfers, their convenience and accessibility was difficult.

“Even before the new levies, mobile money transactions were costly compared to banks,” he said.

However, he noted that it was not all about the charges but also convenience especially for people in remote areas. “It will be expensive for people in remote areas who have to travel long distances to access banks by using more money and time as compared to mobile money transfer which is within our fingertips,” he said.

The government started collecting that much more from transferred cash in efforts to increase the tempo of implementing mega development projects while simultaneously seeking to avoid overtaxing productive economic sectors that have been savaged by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The government plans to collect Sh1.254 trillion for the 2021/2022 financial year through the mobile phone-related charges.

A banker who asked not to be named said mobile money services are good channels for the commercial banks to serve some of their customers.

“There are people who hold bank accounts but access their money through mobile money agents. So, mobile money technologies are our partners and we will be affected once they are affected,” said the source.

The source also pointed out that the new move amounted to double-taxation as money put on mobile money is likely to have been taxed.