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Ghana plans mass block of SIM cards not registered with biometrics

SIM fraud persists in Tanzania
Ghana plans mass block of SIM cards not registered with biometrics

Slightly over 11 million SIM cards not biometrically registered in Ghana will be blocked by the end of this month if a recent warning by the country’s National Communications Authority (NCA) is anything to rely on.

In a recent press briefing, the NCA Director General Joe Anokye said all SIM cards which have not at least gone through the first phase of registration (linkage to the Ghana Card) will be removed from all networks by 31 May, according to a post on the NCA’s official Facebook account.

Anokye underlined the importance of the SIM card registration exercise, saying the success of the country’s digital transformation agenda partly depends on a credible SIM register and a competitive telecommunications industry.

“SIM registration is a key national assignment fundamental to our digital transformation agenda. It is critical for the building of trust and confidence in the use of telecommunications, financial and other essential services,” said Anokye.

“A reliable SIM register will support security and law enforcement activities to safeguard our common peace and also promote socio-economic development.”

In order to enable telecoms users to verify if their SIM cards have effectively been registered, Anokye said: “In the coming days, mobile network operators will introduce a system to enable subscribers to check the number and detail of SIMs registered to their respective Ghana Card.”

During the press conference, the NCA reacted to reports that the SIM registration database had been breached.

“We wish to assure the general public that the SIM database has not been breached. Ghana now has a SIM database that has integrity,” said Anokye.

There have been innumerable extensions of the deadline since Ghana started a process to re-register SIM cards with biometrics in 2021. Despite pressure from the government, millions of active SIM cards remain unregistered as many citizens complain of hassles involved in the process.

One user with name Molotov Agnidoufei, in reaction to the new deadline information on the NCA’s Facebook account, vented his frustration about the SIM registration process saying “you are insensitive to our plights.”

“I registered since 2019 but no physical card to show for it. I was given the Ghana Card number to link my SIM card, but you people went ahead and deactivated my SIM cards. Insensitive people.”

1.9 million suspended lines reconnected

In the meantime, 1.9 million SIM cards which were disconnected last November by MTN Ghana as a result of non-compliance with the registration directive are said to have been re-connected.

Local portal My Joy Online reports that the SIM cards were reconnected after their users completed the second phase of the registration process which is about biometric capture.

The latest deadline of 31 May comes after the NCA had said early last month that all unregistered SIM cards would be deactivated by 17 April.

In Tanzania, SIM fraud rises despite biometric registration

Many of the countries introducing biometric SIM registration argue that the process is part of their efforts in curbing SIM fraud. In Tanzania however, this is not yet the case as there are reports that SIM-enabled crimes continue to flourish despite the government having directed citizens to register all active SIMs with biometrics.

In its quarterly report covering the period up to March, the Tanzanian Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), flagged 12,044 incidents of SIM card-related fraud, reports The Citizen. Most of the fraud happened via the network Tigo, the report mentions.

The TCRA Director of Industrial Affairs Emmanuel Manasseh told the outlet that part of the reason for this is the fact some people ignorantly allow their ID cards for the registration of SIM cards which are not theirs. Fraudsters then use such SIM cards and commit crimes.

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