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SIM registration storm brewing in Kenya

Kenya , 11 Apr 2022

A directive by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) compelling subscribers to confirm ownership of their lines has thrown the local telecommunications industry into disarray.

According to CA , telecommunication companies are required to fully document all subscriber information. However, a recent survey carried out by the regulator in 22 counties showed discrepancies with SIM card registration and incomplete documentation.

The regulator stated: “We established (the following) instances where SIM cards are sold without registration, and customers are advised to register later. SIM cards are sold using another person’s ID or a proxy or other documents such as NSSF card (retirement card) and student ID.”

CA has since ordered that subscribers confirm ownership of lines.

Safaricom, the country’s largest telecommunications operator, conducted a manual process where customers had to appear at any of their shops to register their lines. Telecom Kenya and Airtel Kenya both conducted an online exercise.

However, the CA directive has been met with opposition from some subscribers who demanded to know why they had to re-register lines and provide details again.

In one instance Member of Parliament Aden Duale has threatened to take legal action against Safaricom should his service be cut.

He tweeted: “Dear @SafaricomPLC, I received your text to update my SIM Card registration to avoid disconnection. You have my ID Card and all details with which the SIM Card was registered as a postpaid customer. I will take legal action against you, should my line be disconnected.”

In a bid to settle the ruckus the CA has confirmed that not all lines need to be re-registered, only those that do not have the requisite documentation.

Director-General of the CA Ezra Chiloba added that photos are not necessary for the registration process. “You don't have to physically present yourself to register your SIM cards, your photo is not needed during the registration process,” he said.

Chief Corporate Security Officer at Safaricom Nicholas Mulila explained that the company’s choice to take customer photos was to add an extra layer of security to protect against identity theft.

“The reason has been basically to enhance the security of the resources and data of our customers,” Mulila said at a press conference. “What we have seen in the past is that there have been quite a number of incidents of impersonation and M-Pesa fraud driven by stolen identity.”

The CA plans to switch off unregistered SIM cards by 15 April 2022.

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