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Business of Tech

Ghana begins SIM deactivation after court victory

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Telecom operators in Ghana have started implementing a directive by the Ministry of Communications and Digitalization (MoCD) to block data services to SIM cards that have not completed a mandated registration process.

In a statement, the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications said local operators AirtelTigo, MTN and Vodafone will have to completely deactivate SIM cards by the end of November of users who have either not registered with their national identity card – known locally as the "Ghana Card" – or only partially registered.

Earlier this month, the ministry announced that SIM deactivation measures will be implemented by mobile operators.

"Since November 20, 2022, our members have been blocking data services for all subscribers who have only completed stage one (linkage to Ghana Card) but not stage two (biometric capture) of the SIM registration process, as directed by the ministry," the statement said.

"Our members are obliged by the directive to completely deactivate all subscriber SIMs which have not completed the biometric capture registration step by the said date," the statement continued.

The chamber has appealed to the public to complete the process to avoid having their numbers blocked.

Court victory for regulator

Elsewhere, the high court in Accra ruled in favor of the National Communications Authority (NCA) citing that the regulator has the full legal mandate to conduct the SIM registration exercise.

Ghana's SIM registration exercise kicked off at the beginning of October 2021 but the registration deadline has been moved several times.

In September, The People's Project (TPP) lobby group sued the NCA and the Attorney-General over the ongoing SIM card re-registration exercise. They wanted the apex court to declare the deadline and the associated punitive measures null and void.

However, the court found that the NCA had not exceeded its powers or breached the natural justice principle as there have been sufficient extensions of the deadlines for the registration exercise.

"The Authority takes this opportunity to remind all consumers that the SIM registration exercise is currently ongoing and consumers who have not yet registered their SIM Cards are entreated to do so," the NCA said in a statement.

Two-part registration process

The SIM registration process in Ghana is in two parts: In stage one, citizens need to link their Ghana Card to their SIM cards.

Stage two requires citizens to scan their biometrics at a physical store or by using a self-service mobile SIM registration app that was launched in August.

Want to know more about telco financials, regulation and deals in Africa? Check out our dedicated Business of Tech content channel here on Connecting Africa.

The self-registration process via the app will cost users 5 Ghanaian cedi (US$0.35) which can be paid through a mobile money account. The app is available on the Google Play Store, however, it is not yet available for iOs users.

Several African countries have been changing and modernizing their SIM registration processes. Similar drives in Nigeria, Kenya, Namibia, and Lesotho have taken place to get SIMs linked to national ID cards.

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*Top image source: Image by Freepik

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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