Tanzania worries over fake phone switch off

By Hudson Kazonta, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Tanzanians are worried about what exactly will happen when the country switches off services to counterfeit mobile phones, since many people own fake handsets.

This follows a recent announcement by Tanzanian authorities that preparations were underway to cut off fake phones as Kenyan authorities has done.

Speaking with Biztechafrica, mobile phones users say they fear that their mobile phones will no longer be usable, and that they may lose access to money which they have deposited in M-pesa, Tigo Pesa, Ezypesa, Airtel money and other mobile phones financial services.

Athumani Mazengo, a resident of Dodoma town, says many people cannot afford to buy genuine handsets.

He said the low prices of fake phones allows even low income earners to own mobile phones.

Mazengo says switching off the counterfeit mobile phones is understandable for safety reasons, but he feels the government should first educate their people to stop buying such phones.

He said the government should first take measures such as banning the importing of fake phones, which will automatically force people to buy only genuine phones.

“It is something to wonder, how the government is allowing businessmen to import fake phones in the country and then is preparing to switch them off. Why doesn’t it stop them from importing these phones?” he asked.

On the other hand, mobile phone sellers are worried too, saying they will face major losses.

A businessmen selling mobile phones in Singida Town, Mohamed Abdalah, says he is not sure if the government will succeed in switching off fake phones.

He said the government will not shut down fake phones, since itself through its different ports is allowing businessmen to import such phones while they know they are fake.

He says banning fake phones will cause big losses to phone traders, since more than 50% of mobile phones available in the market are fake.

Abdalah agrees that fake phones should be phased out, by first banning the importing of counterfeit handsets.

Tanzania, through the Tanzania communication regulatory authority (TCRA), has confirmed that they will be turning off counterfeit mobile phones recently and mobile networks there will also be prevented from activating new “fake” devices that are purchased after being turning off.

This will help to protect consumers from hazardous materials, while safeguarding mobile payment systems in the process.

This initiative was agreed on in a meeting of the East African Communication Organization (EACO). The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) was also quoted saying that it will soon announce the date for switching off the fake mobile phones.

RURA is working on the methodology to disconnect fake phones off their network and they will work with telecommunication companies to execute the exercise. RURA noted that it will use the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number through network service providers to differentiate between fake and genuine handsets.

Kenya has already switched off fake phones and is preventing the activating of new fake mobile phones.

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