InterMedia’s recently released Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) 2016 Uganda Annual Report and Survey Data finds that that mobile money uptake is steadily growing in Uganda. For the first time, more than half of the population is using mobile money. Between 2013 and 2016, the percentage of the population holding registered mobile money accounts increased by almost 10 percent. Financial inclusion, defined as the proportion of the population that holds a registered account with a full-service formal financial institution, stood at 40 percent in 2016.

As the FII team reviewed the 2016 data, several important takeaways emerged regarding the state of financial inclusion in Uganda:

  • In 2016, engagement with financial services was primarily driven by the use of mobile money and mobile money account ownership (see Figures 1 and 2 below).  Of the adult population, 53 percent had used mobile money services, and 38 percent of had a registered mobile money account. In contrast, only 9 percent of adults held a full-service bank account (Figure 2), and the rate of bank account ownership has been declining slowly. Access to non-bank financial institutions, such as microfinance institutions, also declined slightly compared to 2015. In 2016, nearly all financially included adults held a registered mobile money account.

Figure 1: Access and trial of financial services 

Figure 2: Registered financial account owners 

  • While the percentage of adults with registered mobile money accounts continues to increase, a large portion of mobile money users continue to use the service over the counter (OTC) via agents. In 2016, seventeen percent of the adult population were OTC mobile money users, and the proportion of OTC users grew significantly over 2016 (Figure 3). OTC users tend to be female, poor, rural, and under 35 years old. FII data shows that these are groups with limited financial literacy and that are least likely to own a phone or SIM card.


Figure 3: OTC user 


  • According to the 2016 FII data, mobile money use has been boosted by an extensive network of mobile money points of service (POS) and people’s high levels of mobile money awareness. Greater accessibility to mobile money points of service in comparison to those of banks and NBFIs is a key factor in enabling higher uptake of mobile transactions. For instance, more than half of Ugandan adults knew of a mobile money agent within a kilometer of where they live, while only 9 percent knew of a banking agent and 6 percent knew of a microfinance institution within the same distance. In addition, awareness of mobile money services remains high across demographic groups – overall, 92 percent of adults can name at least one mobile money provider.
    • Additionally, regulatory changes enacted in 2016 could lead to improved financial inclusion in the coming years among those who use banks. The Financial Institutions (Amendment) Act, passed in 2016, allows agents to provide banks services without the need for a brick and mortar facility.  Over time, bank customers will likely see an increase in points of service, and more options in banking products, including mobile products. An FSD study assessing the potential of agency banking found that the new regulations have the potential to significantly increase the number of bank accounts, and financial inclusion levels.


  • Advanced active use of mobile money continued to increase in 2016 (Figure 4). FII defines advanced use as saving, borrowing, paying bills and other activities beyond person-to-person (P2P) transfers and cash deposits and withdrawals. In 2016, 15 percent of adults were advanced active registered users, and saving and bill pay were the most popular advanced activities for these mobile money users. Other advanced service products newly released on the market, such as digital credit, may continue to attract new customers. For instance, in August 2016, MTN Uganda and the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) partnered to launch MoKash, the first digital credit product to be offered in the Ugandan market. Among other banking products, MoKash provides customers the ability to save and borrow microloans from the CBA. According to media reports, one year after its launch, MoKash had 2.5 million customers enrolled; 1.5 million are actively saving and 1 million loans have been issued.  


Figure 4: Advanced active registered users

  • Despite growth in mobile money services, FII data showed that 39 percent of adults were aware of mobile money but did not use the service. While the percentage of aware nonusers decreased in comparison to 2015, aware nonusers still represent more than a third of the population. Further, FII data indicated that the majority of aware nonusers represented underserved populations -- women, poor, living in rural areas, and those younger than 35. Despite having access to mobile money services, customers from vulnerable groups lack basic resources, including ownership of mobile phones and SIM cards necessary to facilitate use of these services. In 2016, only 24 percent of aware nonusers of mobile money owned a mobile phone.  A 2016 government crackdown on unregistered SIM cards and promotional “counterfeit” phones (those with blocked SIM cards that only allow the customer to use that provider’s services) was a contributing factor. This likely affected underserved populations disproportionately. Many nonusers also still worry about the costs associated with a mobile money account; a majority of these nonusers perceived the lack of money as a barrier to registering a mobile money account.
    • Fifty-seven percent of aware nonusers of mobile money services were women, indicating that future interventions should concentrate on addressing gender constraints relating to mobile money access. FII 2016 data identified the lack of control over their finances as a significant barrier for uptake of mobile money services among women in Uganda. Eighty-one percent of aware female nonusers stated they were concerned about not being able to make private decisions about their own money without male involvement, while 53 percent did not have money to spend or save without the consent of a male family member. Additionally, overall gender gaps in terms of mobile phone access, SIM card ownership, and texting proficiency were significant, with men overrepresented compared to women. The FII team noted a 16 percentage point gap in SIM card ownership and a 15 percentage point gap in texting ability between men and women.


As Uganda continues to progress towards improved financial inclusion, more must be done to ensure that any progress is truly inclusive and targeted toward the need of underserved populations, particularly women. Ugandan regulatory entities and service providers are making positive strides with regulatory reform that focuses on expanding financial inclusion and new products that better meet customer needs.  The FII team looks forward to sharing 2017 data and how it impacts financial inclusion in Uganda.  

What recommendations for accelerating financial inclusion in Uganda do you derive from the Data Fiinder on We’d love to hear from you.


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For more information regarding the FII team’s research in Uganda, please contact:

Lucy Kaaria
Senior Research Associate

Financial Inclusion Insights


Financial Inclusion Insights is an ongoing research program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and designed to build meaningful knowledge about how the financial landscape is changing across eight countries in Africa and Asia (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania and Uganda). FII produces data and analysis regarding citizens’ financial lives, attitudes, awareness and use of, access to, and advanced engagement with financial products and services. Through our qualitative and quantitative research, we aim to provide demand-side insights into consumers' financial behaviors, produce information that can guide policy interventions, and identify pathways for the poor to gain the financial tools they need to improve their economic circumstances.