Burundi : users of the Ecocash system in disarray

Burundi : users of the Ecocash system in disarray

The Burundi Revenue Authority (OBR) seized accounts of the Econet Wireless Burundi mobile phone company. Users of its Ecocash money transfer system can no longer withdraw their money. Super agents, agents and individuals do not know what to do. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

In all banks and microfinance institutions in Burundi that collaborate with the Ecocash system, no one can withdraw money since this Thursday, January 26, 2023, at the end of the afternoon.

“When I went to the bank and Ecocash, I was told there is no money. I came back empty-handed. I get dizzy when I think of the money my agents are losing, let alone my case. There are agents who lose in terms of millions and this money does not belong to them”, laments a super agent who runs his business in downtown Bujumbura, the commercial city.

Everywhere, faces of the agents who are in every corner of the city are pitiful. Some greet each other and we notice the sorrow in them. A girl in an Ecocash vest confides, with tears in her eyes, “I risk losing more than 500 thousand francs while the money I use does not belong to me. Where am I going my God!”

Another agent holds out hope. According to him, “the State is our parent. It can’t steal its children’s money. Let us keep hope. A solution will be found tomorrow perhaps”.

The Burundi Revenue Authority ordered the seizure of all Econet network accounts following “a debt of more than 88 billion Burundi francs and more than 44 million US dollars”. The letter sent to various financial institutions dates from January 24, 2023. It began circulating on social media this Thursday morning, before the system was paralyzed, but the company, which has many subscribers in the small East African nation, had reassured that “you can continue to use our Ecocash services”. Recently, President Neva had warned that “I will have no pity for these mobile phone companies – not even a pardon equivalent to a mustard seed”. For the Burundian Head of State, mobile telephone companies are enriching themselves on the backs of the Burundian taxpayer without contributing anything to the public treasury while they have already had “a profit of more than five million times”.

“You are still brandishing the principle of state continuity. Who deceived you that the continuity of the state works in evil?”, he declared last December in the province of Kayanza in the north of Burundi. He was referring to contracts from mobile phone companies and mining companies.

Mr. Ndayishimiye speaks of “biased and fraudulent contracts” that he cannot condone as manager of the country and affirms that “I will read these contracts myself and go to plead myself because if I send technicians, you go and bribe them. I will turn myself into a lawyer”.

The most representative mobile phone company in Burundi has not yet commented on this situation. This is not the first time that Burundian authorities have threatened to close this company if it “does not settle its debts”. But this is the first time that its accounts have been seized.

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