The advent of mobile money (MoMo) has indeed been beneficial to many Ghanaians. It has created a convenient avenue for business transactions particularly for those engaged in small and medium scale businesses. Again it has also created employment for many young folks who otherwise would have been unemployed and probably engaged in one vice or the other.
This concept as introduced by MTN in 2009 is a convenient, secure and affordable means of transferring and receiving monies as well as making payments for goods and services. This was an option for many Ghanaians who do not engage in traditional banking. By extension, this phenomenon has raked in huge revenue for the Central Bank, MoMo operators as well as employment for vendors- the rippling effects have been mutually beneficial, positively affecting livelihoods of many families.
Current statistics from the Telecoms Authority suggests that there over 22 million MoMo subscribers across various networks across the country. The boom in the business has created over 194,000 jobs for vendors nationwide. The effect is the proliferation of MoMo businesses dotted along almost every major and minor streets and corners in many communities in Ghana.
I am however concerned about the risks MoMo vendors face daily in terms of their personal security despite the gains and benefits of the business module. MoMo operators are at the vulnerability of armed robbers in broad day light. Police statistics gathered in the second quarter over 2018 indicates there have been over 30 reported cases of attacks on MoMo operators in Accra in areas such as Madina, Adabraka, Kokomlemle, Tema and Kasoa. Similarly, there have been attacks in other regions of the country.
These attacks have resulted in snatching of monies and electronic devices, causing bodily harms and fatalities of victims. The recent disaster was the demise of Promise Atsu Dayi, a vendor who was shot dead at Assylum Down a suburb of Accra. The deceased who left behind a 3 month old baby and a wife was surrounded by three armed men on motorbikes and asked to surrender his money. He was subsequently shot dead by one of his assailants after a struggle. This has once again sent shocking waves down the spine of many other MoMo operators and their families who depend on them as bread winners.
The Greater Accra Regional Police commander, DCOP Alex Mensah, in response to the incident reiterated that his outfit “raised this issue about a year ago, when I say there was a proliferation of this mobile money vendors and we met with the mobile money service providers, we told them it was a risk area because these guys are licensed to operate at any place without the security involved”.
Again, I recall that the Mobile Money Vendors Association some time back appealed to the Police to help provide security for their members but as expected, the Police responded by complaining about their inadequate numbers, hence their inability to provide reliable security services at all times.
In view of these security concerns, there are a few questions this paper seeks answers to: How safe are these operators in the daily dispensation of their duties? How will these attack s affect the MoMo industry and its stakeholders, especially for those whose livelihoods and that of their families depend on it? How safe are clients who withdraw monies from these vendors as well?
Even though personal security should be a prerogative of every individual, the police service is tasked and paid from the public purse to protect the citizenry. We expect to feel their presence through their patrols, emergency lines and rapid responses to crime scenes. What happened to the concept of community policing which was meant to make the Police visible in almost every community? Perhaps it’s time to revisit this concept by recruiting more personnel to restore safety and tranquility in our neighbourhoods.
To add to this, mobile service operators together with their stakeholders’ i.e the National Communications Authority (NCA), the Telecoms Chamber, Police and others could fashion out a module to provide MoMo services at designated secured points where CCTV is installed in every vending kiosk/container or at vantage points and connected to a central system for monitoring and playback in the event of an attack. Private security arrangements could also be an option to consider, but certainly with a mechanism to take care of the cost involved.
It is equally important that vendors should be vigilant at all times and desist from working into the late hours of the night.
The MoMo concept and the introduction of interoperability have indeed made inroads into the lives and businesses of many families in Ghana. It behooves on all of us to protect the MoMo purse and the lives that guard it.
By Famous Kwesi Atitsogbe