Although, it is the most profitable company, and also boasts the cheapest local rates in East Africa, Safaricom’s subscribers in Uganda are complaining about the newly introduced exorbitant calling and short message (sms) rates in Uganda.
Previously, the subscribers, most of whom are Kenyans, were being charged Kshs8 (Shs192) per minute on Ongea Tariff, and relatively the same charges on other tariffs like the belated Jibambie.
This has been increased by over 200 pc. The rates now stand at between Kshs25 (Shs600) to Kshs28 (Shs672) per minute and Ksh10 (Shs240) for a text message.
“Safaricom is charging us expensively,” remarked Scola Kamau, a Kenyan student in Uganda.
This is affecting Safaricom’s subscriber base in Uganda as it is losing out most of them to Zain and MTN.
When contacted to explain the phenomenon, a Safaricom customer care personnel claimed the tariffs for Safaricom subscribers who go out of Kenyan borders will not be the same as was the case.
The roaming service is similar to the boarderless service that was pioneered by the Zain group. In Uganda, Safaricom offers the service through MTN Uganda and Uganda Telecom.
The exorbitant taxation system in Kenya could be one of the reasons for the hike in tariffs that will mostly hurt subscribers outside of Kenya.
Currently, the Value Added Tax is as high as 26 per cent and it could be more, hurting investors, even though they rake in millions of shillings in profits each year.
However, what explains the new charges is a technical hitch the telecommunications Company experienced in late January this year.
For about two days, it was glee for Safaricom subscribers in Uganda whenever they would top up their accounts with MTN credit cards. A top up of Shs500 (approximately Kshs20) would recharge the subscriber’s account to Kshs2000 (more than Shs48,000).
Taking advantage of the technical hitch, some people would top up to as much as Kshs200,000 (approximately Shs48,000) and transfer as much as they wanted,” said Innocent Masaki, who works as a customer care agent with Zain-Uganda.
He personally topped up more than Kshs150,000 (approximately Shs3.6 million) though he wouldn’t transfer more than Kshs10,000 (about Shs240,000) per day. However, the lucrative loophole was short lived as all sim cards were blocked but activated with a credit-less account.
“Safaricom must have made losses and they want to re-coup the money they lost during the technical error,” says one subscriber.
“We are all paying for the sins of a few people.”
“I have money but I fear to top up,” said Wycliff Mugun. He added, “Safaricom is for receiving only.”
And, indeed, Safaricom might also pay for the exodus of a few of its subscriber base to its local competitor or to its Ugandan counterparts MTN, Zain, Warid and Uganda Telecom.