Press Release: WorldRemit customers can now send money instantly to MTN Mobile Money wallets in Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia (28.01.2016)

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London, UK and Johannesburg, South AfricaWorldRemit and MTN Group today announced that WorldRemit customers can now send money instantly to MTN Mobile Money wallets in Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.

The launch follows the signing of a global partnership agreement earlier this year, to enable WorldRemit customers all over the world to send international remittances to MTN’s Mobile Money customers.

“This partnership makes sense for both companies, as WorldRemit and MTN share a disruptive approach to innovation and bring impactful services to our customers. Together, we are now providing an instant, fully digital and very affordable solution to send international remittance to Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. Other countries will follow soon,” says Serigne Dioum, MTN Group Head of Mobile Financial Services.

“At WorldRemit, we are pioneering international mobile-to-mobile remittances. Our partnership with MTN allows our customers around the world to send money instantly from the WorldRemit app to MTN Mobile Money users in Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. Together with MTN, we make sending money home as easy as sending an instant message,” says Alix Murphy, Senior Mobile Analyst at WorldRemit.

She continues: “For diaspora members sending money to friends and family back home in these countries, Mobile Money is a real game-changer. In Uganda, Mobile Money has already overtaken cash pick-up and bank deposits as the preferred method to receive money. We expect this trend to continue as MTN’s Mobile Money services reach millions of people without bank accounts, giving them access to a variety of life-enhancing financial services including savings and insurance schemes.”

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People in more than 52 countries already use the WorldRemit app to send around 400,000 money transfers every month to over 125 destinations. WorldRemit is the leading sender of remittances to Mobile Money wallets connecting to over 25 different services worldwide.

MTN Mobile Money enables users to perform utility payments, save money, purchase airtime and access a range of mobile financial products. To date, MTN Mobile Money is used by customers in 15 countries across Africa, i.e. Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Congo, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Republic, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda and Zambia.

In keeping with its aim to accelerate the rollout of international remittance, MTN launched a cross-border mobile money transfer service between Uganda and Rwanda in August. The service allows customers in both countries to transact via MTN Mobile Money with the same simplicity as for a local money transfer. MTN also offers a mobile money cross-border remittance service between Ivory Coast, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. The remittance corridor between Kenya and Rwanda is the latest addition to MTN’s Mobile Money bouquet of services. It forms part of a major initiative between MTN and Vodafone, to enhance financial inclusivity in East Africa.

In the six months to 30 June 2015, MTN grew mobile money subscribers by 45,8% to 32,4 million.

*NB: All figures are unaudited

 

About the MTN Group

Launched in 1994, the MTN Group is a leading emerging market operator, connecting subscribers in 22 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The MTN Group is listed on the JSE Securities Exchange in South Africa under the share code: “MTN.” As of 30 June 2015, MTN recorded 231 million subscribers across its operations in Afghanistan, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Republic, Iran, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, South Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia. Visit us at, www.mtnbusiness.com and www.mtn.com

Press Release: Kenya must review Double Tax Agreement with Mauritius (02.11.2015)

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(Nairobi, November 2, 2015) – Kenya is teetering on the brink of financial meltdown with the implosion of at least two private commercial banks in the last few months and signing of loophole-ridden double taxation agreements with tax havens Mauritius, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Tax havens are countries or states that position themselves as low tax jurisdictions allowing companies and rich individuals to hide their wealth without paying appropriate taxes where they actually make their profits or wealth. Tax Justice Network-Africa (TJN-A) in October 2014 sued the Government of Kenya (specifically the Cabinet Secretary to the Treasury, Kenya Revenue Authority and the Attorney-General) challenging the constitutionality of the Kenya/Mauritius Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement signed in Port Louis, Mauritius on May 11, 2012 and as contained in Legal Notice 59 published in the Kenya Gazette of May 23, 2014.

The Agreement significantly undermines Kenya’s ability to raise domestic revenue to underpin the country’s development by opening up loopholes for multinational companies operating in the country and super- rich individuals to shift profits abroad through Mauritius to avoid paying appropriate taxes. For example, provisions under Article 11 of the Agreement relating to interest limit Kenya’s withholding tax to 10 per cent whereas the Kenyan domestic rate currently stands at 15 per cent. This will significantly affect the tax base of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). The Agreement also sharply contravenes Articles 10 and 201 of the Constitution and is inconsistent with the principles of good governance, sustainability and accountability. The Agreement is open to abuse and this could endanger the growth and development of Kenya.

Three main reliefs sought by TJN-A are: that the High Court declares the government’s failure or neglect to subject the Kenya-Mauritius Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement to ratification in line with the Treaty Making and Ratification Act 2012 as a contravention of Articles 10 (a), (c) and (d) and 201 of the Constitution of Kenya.

That the Court directs the Cabinet Secretary for Treasury to immediately withdraw Legal Notice 59 of 2014 and commence the process of ratification in conformity with the provisions of the Treaty Making and Ratification Act 2012.  And award cost of the petition with interest against the Government of Kenya. The case came up for mention at the Nairobi High Court today, November 2, 2015. The court will fix a date for hearing the case on November 9, 2015. Speaking at a press briefing earlier today, the Executive Director of TJN-A, Alvin Mosioma said “there is need for public participation in the process of ratification of double tax agreements…double tax agreements kill the competitive edge of local firms”. 2 Senator Hassan Omar of Mombasa County who also addressed the press said Kenya’s “Parliament needs to appreciate its responsibility in safeguarding the public’s interests,” adding that “the reason people steal is because there is complicity and people are aware of it”. Provisions under Article 12 of the Agreement which relates to royalties also restrict at- source withholding tax to half (10 per cent) of Kenya domestic rate of 20 per cent. This will significantly weaken Kenya’s ability to raise revenue to finance its development. Additionally provisions under Article 20 of the Agreement reserves all taxation of “other income” not dealt with in specific Articles to the residence state.

This effectively reduces withholding tax to zero per cent on services, management fees, insurance commissions among others, whereas Kenyan domestic withholding tax rate currently stands at 20 per cent. This is a major gap that will lead to massive revenue leakages. The Agreement is neither United Nations nor OECD compliant and it also fails to address the issue of disposal of shares in companies. The Agreement effectively reserves under Article 13.4 all taxation of capital gains from selling shares in companies to Mauritius where the effective Capital Gains Tax is zero per cent. Under the Agreement foreign investors in Kenya can acquire Kenyan companies through Mauritius holding companies and Kenya cannot tax any of the gains when they sell these businesses again. This is open to abuse. Similarly, domestic Kenyan investors can dodge Kenyan taxes by round-tripping their investments illicitly through Mauritian shell companies. Kenyan companies can also easily avoid Kenyan taxes in dividends paid to foreign investors through devices like share buy-backs therefore deny the government of development funds.

The provision is very similar to the Capital Gains Tax Article in the India-Mauritius treaty which has proved very controversial costing India an estimated US$600 million a year in revenues as a result of tax avoidance and illicit round-tripping by Indian business executives driving the Government of India to initiate steps to renegotiate its agreement with Mauritius. Under the definition of ‘bilateral treaty’ in Section 2 of the Treaty Making and Ratification Act an ‘agreement’ such as the one between Kenya and Mauritius and which is the subject matter of this legal case, is a treaty subject to the Act and therefore requires that the Cabinet Secretary to the Treasury in consultation with the Attorney General, submit to the Cabinet the treaty, together with a memorandum outlining, inter alia – 1. Policy and legislative considerations, 2. Financial implications 3. Implications on matters relating to counties, 4. The views of the public on the ratification of the treaty.

Mauritius presently has tax treaties with 13 African countries namely Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Swaziland, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Apart from Kenya, Mauritius also has signed Double Taxation Agreements with Congo, Zambia and Nigeria. Currently Mauritius is negotiating DTAs with Algeria, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Malawi and Tanzania. Unlike Mauritius’ DTA with Uganda and Nigeria, for example, which have specific provisions for withholding tax for management/technical services fees, Kenya failed to negotiate any such provisions. 

In a related development, the Government of Kenya has signed an equally harmful Double Tax Agreement with United Arab Emirates and Qatar – both of which are tax havens – in which Kenya further deems its right to tax as unnecessary in a bid to attract investment from these two countries. These agreements will deepen Kenya’s current cash crunch by allowing the further erosion of the country’s tax base. – END.

ABOUT TJN-A: Tax Justice Network-Africa (TJN-A) is a Pan-African initiative and a member of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice. It is a network of 29 members in 16 African countries. TJN-A collaborates closely with these member organisations in tax justice 3 advocacy at the national and regional levels. TJN-A seeks to promote socially just and progressive taxation systems in Africa, advocating for pro-poor tax policies and the strengthening of tax systems to promote domestic resource mobilisation. TJN-A aims to challenge harmful tax policies and practices that favour the wealthy and aggravate and perpetuate inequality. For further enquiries, please email Kwesi Obeng at kobeng@taxjusticeafrica.net (+254 726 804 400) and/or Michelle Mbuthia at mmbuthia@taxjusticeafrica.net (+254 724 994 796).

Declaration of African Countries represented at the Nairobi +30 Meeting, Held in Nairobi Kenya, at the Kenyatta International Convention Center – 13th August 2015

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Press Release: Western Union Celebrates its 20th Anniversary in Africa (28.07.2015)

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ACCRA, Ghana–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Western Union Company (NYSE:WU, a leader in global payment services, today celebrated its 20th anniversary in Africa. With over 34,000 locations and connections to millions of bank accounts and mobile wallets in more than 50 countries and territories, across Africa, the Western Union network serves millions of senders and receivers with a choice of 120 currencies.

To celebrate this special milestone, Western Union’s President for Africa, Middle East, Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe and CIS, Jean Claude Farah, in addition to Aida Diarra, Western Union’s Regional Vice President and Head of Africa and other members of the Africa leadership team visited the first agent location at ADB (Agricultural Development Bank) that offered Western Union money transfer services for the first time in Africa in 1995. The WU leadership team also visited Ecobank head office in Accra and marked the occasion with the launch of the Account Based Money Transfer services through ATM in Ghana.

The Western Union 20th Anniversary celebration in Ghana in Africa, coincides with a speech made by President Barack Obama at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he is quoted saying:

“Today, Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. Africa’s middle class is projected to grow to more than one billion consumers. With hundreds of millions of mobile phones, surging access to the Internet, Africans are beginning to leapfrog old technologies into new prosperity. Africa is on the move, a new Africa is emerging.”

Western Union is committed to the expansion and development of its pan-African network which provides a critical link to the ever growing African Diaspora living and working in countries around the world.

“More than 30 million Africans live outside their home countries, contributing billions of USD in remittances to their families and communities back home every year1”, said Jean Claude Farah. “We are very humbled to play a role in helping them move their money as they seek to elevate their economic status, meet emergency needs, support healthcare requirements, contribute to the education of future generations and in many instances build their own small businesses. By moving money for better for 20 years Western is enabling a world of possibilities for Africa and in Africa.”

Aida Diarra added, “Through the work we do we also enable economic activity and job creation. Currently over 155,000 Front Line Associates (FLAs) are employed in our agent network on the African continent. Western Union invests in training these FLAs developing their business, technical and compliance skills.”

In addition to the socio-economic impact that remittances enable, the company also supports philanthropic activities in Africa via the Western Union Foundation which has a long history of giving back to communities across the African continent. It supports organizations that promote economic opportunity and growth for individuals, families and entire communities throughout the region. Since its creation, the Western Union Foundation has committed to $8.703 million in grants and donations to 158 NGOs in more than 40 countries across Africa.

About Western Union

The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU) is a leader in global payment services. Together with its Vigo, Orlandi Valuta, Pago Facil and Western Union Business Solutions branded payment services, Western Union provides consumers and businesses with fast, reliable and convenient ways to send and receive money around the world, to send payments and to purchase money orders. As of March 31, 2015, the Western Union, Vigo and Orlandi Valuta branded services were offered through a combined network of over 500,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories and over 100,000 ATMs and kiosks. In 2014, The Western Union Company completed 255 million consumer-to-consumer transactions worldwide, moving $85 billion of principal between consumers, and 484 million business payments. For more information, visit www.WesternUnion.com.

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1 IFAD, 2009

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Western Union Press Contact:
Khalid Baddou, +212 522 42 84 02
Khalid.Baddou@westernunion.com