Uganda: Water Corporation to Save Billions in Mobile Payments

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Piped water consumers in Uganda can expect to get better service delivery on the back of business deals signed between National Water & Sewerage Corporation and two mobile phone companies.

Dr William Muhairwe, the managing director of NWSC told Daily Monitor that the company will save at least Shs1 billion per year by receiving water payments through mobile-money payment systems.

"We are going to ensure that we re-invest this money into the system to make it more suitable for the customers," Dr Muhairwe said in an interview in Kampala.

On Monday, Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) became the second mobile operator to enter a partnership with the water company to collect its bills through its mobile money service dubbed M-sente. The UTL deal came less than a week after NWSC entered a similar agreement with MTN Uganda. The companies are charging customers between Shs300 and Shs700 per SMS meant for a water bill transaction.

The corporation spends huge sums of money in the transfer of cash from its branches around the country to banks by way of bullion vans with escorts.

"The insurance cost was very high because we had to pay the security companies and also the banks. So that cost will be saved," Dr Muhairwe said.

In addition, the company also spends a lot of money in delivery of paper bills, which will be substituted by SMS bills.

"We have been sending our bills with our meter readers to people's houses. But with this system, if you give us your telephone number, the moment we bill you we then transfer the bill to your phone by SMS for payment," he explained.

The water company is set to completely phase out most of its cash offices and adopt only mobile money payment systems in the future.

"We think this will be one of the easiest ways for customers to pay their water bill and the cost is also low," he said.

A single NWSC cash office can collect between Shs300, 000 and Shs10 million per day from its customers.

But water shortage continues to hit parts of Uganda as a result of a weak and delicate distribution service systems operated by the company.

At the signing of the agreement, Stanley Henning, UTL's Chief Operations Officer said the new system will increase efficiency in making payments and eliminate the risk of carrying lots of money.