Togo: Telecoms regulator deactivates “illegal” SIM cards
October 29 was the deadline set by Togo’s Electronic Communications Regulatory Authority (ARCEP) for everyone using many SIM cards to limit the number to three per network.
The regulator said that on November 2 it would launch the process of deactivating the numbers that have not complied with the new law, which it said was necessary to combat fraud, cybercrime, scams, all sorts of trafficking and terrorism.
The new law No. 007/MENTD/CAB of 29 April 2021 of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Digital Transformation is also meant to put order in the operators’ database, and prepare the country towards number interoperability.
However, reports from the tiny West African nation said the two mobile networks, Moov Africa and Togo Cellulaire, were under enormous pressure to ensure that their subscribers had come forward to identify themselves to avoid the deactivation of their SIM cards.
A man who used nine SIM cards said he was worried that his numbers faced the risk of being deactivated because he has not taken any steps to comply with the new regulations.
“I was too busy running around the country. My work didn’t give me a chance to get to the nearest Moov Africa and Togocel shop to identify myself and regularise my situation,” he told Biztech Africa on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.
“I urge the regulator to extend the deadline because six months was too short,” the man said.
Initially, the regulator set the date of August 23 as the deadline for complying with the new law. However, it had to extend it to October 29 to give more time to users and the mobile companies to comply. It remains unclear whether the regulator will listen to complaints and backtrack on its November 2 date, to allow for a new extension.
Togo has nearly five million mobile users out of a population of seven million, and the number of mobile users seems to be growing annually by 15%. The sector generated a turnover of FCFA159.5 billion ($282 million) in 2019, according to the regulator’s figures released at the end of 2020.
The record mobile penetration (83%) has led to what industry watchers described as a chaotic environment, where anyone bought a SIM card without producing any form of identification.
Most recently, the regular fined TogoCom and Moov Africa up to FCFA1 billion CFA and FCFA593 million, respectively, for “illegal business practices”.