Why are African Governments Asking you to Re-Register your Sim Card?

Until last week, The Communication Authority( CA), had maintained that the April 15th SIM card registration deadline will not be moved. The regulator was and is still pushing Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom to ensure that all their customer data is updated by end of this month or risk deactivation of their SIM cards.

This is not the first time that such an undertaking is being pushed forward. In 2015 and 2018, the government embarked on a similar drive but the telcos were reluctant and asked for more time to carry out the exercise.

This time around, CA Director-General Ezara Chiloba has spelt out stiff penalties for those who fail to update their details with respective service providers. You risk a jail term of six months or up to Sh.300,000 fines or both if you don’t comply, said Mr. Chiloba.

“We want before the end of April all the networks to be cleaned up by deactivating all unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards from the networks,” he said.

Why is the Government pushing for Database Updates?

As the digital space expands, so does cybercrime and other fraud conducted through tech-enabled tools and products. Updating user information, according to the Communication Authority will help in combating the vices occasioned by the growth of the digital space.

A case in point is the use of unregistered or fraudulent SIM cards to acquire digital loans. When these numbers are not properly accounted for, it becomes difficult for service providers and law enforcers to follow through. There are dotted cases where such information has been used to acquire loan facilities.

As part of the process, service providers are required to include a digital passport-size photo of the customer, a national ID, or a passport for refugees.

Additionally, parents have been warned not to use their details to register their children who are not above eighteen years.

Last week, the Authority presented the Child Online Protection and Safety Guidelines for public scrutiny and debate. Part of the proposed guidelines is the registration of SIM cards used by minors by providing the child’s identity using smart devices.

Further, CA will launch a national registry of minors using smartphones to help combat virtual crimes such as identify theft and exposure to adult content.

You can check the number of SIM cards registered under your ID by simply dialling *106#.  This code also helps you to report unknown numbers associated with your ID and you can as well cancel a reported number.

The comprehensive clean up exercise has occasioned long queues at customer service shops as Kenyans hasten to beat the deadline.

The situation is the same across other African countries including Nigeria and Ghana. In Ghana, the re-registration was scheduled for October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022 but has not been extended to July 31, 2022. In Nigeria, after four months of suspending the registration of new SIM cards, Nigeria’s Communications Commission (NCC) finally lifted the suspension in April 2021. NCC had ordered telcos in the country to add identification numbers (NINs) – containing personal data identifying the user – to every SIM card registered in the country or block the SIMs.

How to register your SIM Card in Kenya

CA last week announced that it has extended the nationwide SIM card registration to October 15, 2022. CA’s Director-General Ezra Chiloba said the move will allow Kenyans more time to comply.

If you’re a Safaricom customer in Kenya,  you can update your SIM Registration Details through an online portal here.  This means you don’t have to physically visit a Safaricom Shop or Agent to update your details, you can do it from the comfort of your home, for yourself and anyone else. Airtel Kenya customers can also do the same here. For Telkom Kenya customers, simply dial *544*0*0# or *100*0# from your Telkom line and follow the prompts

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Simon W Nderitu

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