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Pilgrims stranded as mobile money agents run out of cash

Hundreds of pilgrims in Namugongo seeking to make mobile money transactions were left stranded due to a breakdown in telecommunications networks and several outlets running out of cash. 

Our reporter visited at least 20 mobile money outlets and discovered that people were being turned away after the operators told them they could not dispense cash. Martin Mugoya, a mobile money operator in Namugongo, says that he turned away several customers due to lack of funds.

Some of pilgrims at an MTN mobile money stall 

"Many people are coming and 'bouncing'. They kept their money on their mobile phones but it's unfortunate that even network has been too poor since morning. I can only send money but withdrawing is hard because I don't have hard cash," Mugoya said.

Sarah Nassuna, another mobile money operator around the Catholic Martyrs shrine said they had sold out all the airtime scratch cards in stock.

"Like you are seeing, I am very tired. I have been here since yesterday. We sold throughout the night and now I don't have cash to give out to people. Many are coming here but we have nothing to do. Suppliers did not come today," Nassuna said.

The pilgrims were equally affected. Christine Anyatcho, from Tororo, says that she moved to more than four outlets and there was no money because of network problem.

"I think its network because I have been moving all around but I am not yet successful. I want money for transport so I don't know how to manage without transport here when the network is down," Anyatcho said. 

It was estimated that between 3-4 million pilgrims attended today's Martyrs Day celebrations at both the Catholic and Anglican shrines in Namugongo.

According to Bank of Uganda estimates there are about 22 mobile money subscribers in Uganda with MTN taking the lions share at 54 per cent and Airtel mobile money at 25 per cent.  

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