East Africa countries move closer to common SIM card registration

Telecoms

Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan have now moved closer to firming a common SIM card registration framework, following a rise in crimes perpetrated through mobile devices.

Regulators and information, communication and technology ministers of the four countries met yesterday to harmonise the different legal and regulatory frameworks for SIM card registration.

“The harmonised framework will help tackle fraud likely to be experienced as the countries strive to collectively realise financial inclusions for their citizens,” said ICT Principal Secretary Joseph Tiampati.

ID CARDS LINKED TO SIM CARD

A joint statement that brought the discussions into play, signed by Kenya’s ICT Secretary Fred Matiang’i, Uganda’s John Nasasira, Jean Philbert Nsengimana of Rwanda and South Sudan’s Rebecca Joshua Okwachi states that the four governments would interconnect national identification systems.

Communications Authority Director-General Francis Wangusi said the ID cards will then be linked to the SIM cards of mobile users as in the case of Kenya.

In the new arrangement, Uganda, for instance, will recognise a Kenyan-registered SIM card from its end and trace the owner in case it is used to commit crime.

CROSS BORDER HARMONISATION

Plans for cross-border SIM card harmonisation are part of the One Network Area agreement by the four countries. Only voice has been harmonised, with data, mobile money and SMS in progress.

According to Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi, Ugandans had no national IDs as plans for harmonisation were first brought into play in 2013.

“We were using passports, driving permits and school IDs as the plans were institutionalised. We have now registered quite a number of ID cards so we are making steps towards registering SIM cards using national IDs,” said Mr Mutabazi on Thursday.

Kenya leads in the SIM card registration. In 2013, millions of unregistered subscribers were switched off from the local networks and stringent measures placed to penalise operators for unregistered SIM cards.

Rwanda and South Sudan are also tightening their SIM registration regulations to make them seamless across the borders.

The ICT meeting follows a directive issued jointly by presidents Kenyatta of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Salva Kiir of South Sudan at the June summit meeting in Uganda.
Source: Daily Nation 24 September 2015