What you need to know about Yaka meters due for discontinuation on November 24

by Mmeeme Leticia Luweze
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The recent announcement that Yaka meters will be phased-out by November 24, 2024 has stirred confusion among many Ugandans. The revelation has attracted questions about the implications and the necessary next steps. 

During a media briefing at Uganda Media Centre on January 6, 2024, the Minister of Energy, Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa, disclosed that the existing pre-paid electricity meters, widely known as Yaka meters, will cease operations by November 24 this year.

According to Minister Nankabirwa, all electricity consumers with prepaid meters (Yaka) will be migrated onto the new Token Identification System, known as the (TID Rollover), by October 2024 to continue purchasing units for their power supply. The new Token Identification System will facilitate and improve the experience for customers switching their electricity service from one provider to another, offering enhanced functionalities and features that streamline the transition between utility providers.

The operators of the pre-paid electricity meters, based in South Africa, had previously announced that the system would cease to operate by November 2024. The decision to transition from prepaid meters to the new Token Identification System (TID Rollover) aligns with Uganda’s commitment, in coordination with other regional counterparts, to adopt the Standard Transfer Specification, the global standard for the transfer of electricity and other utility prepayment tokens. This move ensures inter-operability between system components from different manufacturers, empowering consumers to switch between utility providers globally.

This strategic shift not only upholds Uganda’s dedication to the global Standard Transfer Specification, but also fosters healthy competition within the sector. 

By dismantling the existing monopoly, consumers gain the freedom to choose from various electricity providers offering different prices. This transition marks a significant step toward a more dynamic and competitive electricity market, in line with global standards and regional advancements.

These changes signify a notable departure from the current power sector monopoly, aligning with the mandates of the Electricity (Amendment) Act of 2022. One of the key objectives of the act is the dissolution of existing monopolies, paving the way for increased competition within the sector.

The Ministry of Energy has set a target to migrate all of Uganda’s electricity consumers’ prepaid meters (Yaka) onto the new Token Identification System, known as the (TID Rollover), by October 2024 to ensure Ugandans can continue purchasing electricity units conveniently. Minister Hon. Ruth Nakabirwa made assurance that power suppliers are working diligently to ensure that no inconveniences are caused during the system upgrade. Additionally, Hon. Nankabirwa announced a reduction in electricity tariffs to facilitate competitiveness in the manufacturing sector.

Umeme, in a customer notice, informed the public that they have officially begun the Yaka Meters upgrade project, set to align with global metering standards and meet the November 2024 deadline. The upgrade involves enhancing the Yaka meter software for compatibility with the latest vending system, ensuring improved customer vending experiences, system security, and electricity token recognition.

According to Umeme, customers scheduled for the upgrade will receive three tokens via SMS, which they should enter into the Yaka meter in the specified order. A confirmation message will indicate the successful token loading.

The new metering system ushers in a new era of consumer choice and flexibility. Users will no longer be tied to a single provider, but will have the freedom to choose from a variety of operators. This change is expected to foster competition among providers, potentially leading to improved services and competitive pricing.

In addition to the upcoming metering system change, the Electricity Regulatory Authority also announced the electricity tariffs for the first quarter of 2024. This announcement further emphasises the transformative changes sweeping across Uganda’s power sector. Ruth Nankakbirwa, during the media address, outlined the strategic plan to integrate electricity tokens from various operators, diversifying choices beyond the current Yaka system. The envisioned shift aligns with the government’s broader agenda, as reiterated by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in his recent end-of-year address. Lowering electricity costs is a key focus, aiming to enhance the competitiveness of Uganda’s products both domestically and internationally.

President Museveni directed the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development to reduce the cost of power, particularly for manufacturers, to 5 cents of the dollar or 185 Shillings per unit from the then 8.7 cents of a dollar or 321 Shillings per unit. This aligns with the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government manifesto for 2021-2026, emphasising the significance of reduced end-user electricity tariffs in fostering industrialisation and socioeconomic transformation. In pursuit of this goal, he directed Minister Nankakbirwa to reduce the cost of power, specifically for manufacturers, from 8.7 cents of the dollar (321 Shillings per unit) to 5 cents of the dollar (185 Shillings per unit).

Furthermore, President Museveni advocated for direct electricity purchases by the manufacturing sector from government power plants. The cost-effectiveness of power generation at Kiira (1.1 cents per US$ per unit), Isimba (4.16 cents US$ per unit), and the anticipated rate for Karuma (4.97 cents US$ per unit upon completion) supports this directive.

Dr. Sarah Kanaabi Wasagali, Chairperson of the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), disclosed that between September and November 2023, the Authority reviewed annual tariffs following applications from key players in the sector. This comprehensive approach is part of Uganda’s broader Energy Policy for 2023, striving to achieve a targeted electricity generation capacity of 52,481MW by 2040, coupled with an 80% grid access rate. She said that the standard of metering is being recognised at the global level because, with it, a consumer can use it to switch electricity payments from one utility provider to another.

Uganda is currently implementing substantial reforms in its power sector, driven by the Electricity (Amendment) Act of 2022. This amendment, aimed at ending the monopoly in the power sector, has already initiated the impending exit of UMEME. According to Hon. Nakabirwa, UMEME will be replaced by the Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL) effective April 1, 2025.

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