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The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has announced its decision to lift its nearly four-month long ban on the sale of SIM cards to government departments, ministries, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and companies.

The lift of the ban comes amid tight new SIM card registration rules set out by the commission in a bid to stamp out SIM card registration fraud.

On the 26th of June 2020, the UCC suspended the sale of SIM cards to all corporates after it had received a large number of reports of failure by telecom operators and corporates to adhere to SIM card registration regulations.

In terms of SIM card registration rules, corporates could have as many SIM cards as possible provided they adhered to the registration rules. However, some unscrupulous individuals submitted fake company documents to telecom operators for them to acquire multiple registered SIM cards.

Following the suspension, the Commission on the 19th of August 2020 presented a proposal to telecom operators on a potential way to deal with the situation. They received comments from telecom operators regarding the proposals that it had made to improve the corporate SIM card registration processes.

“As the Commission concludes the development of operational guidelines for corporate SIM card registration, the Commission has, in accordance with its statutory mandate under Sections 5(1)(b) & (j), 39, 48 and schedule 6(I)(K) of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 and Section 9 of the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act 2010, lifted the suspension on the sale of SIM cards to unnatural persons including corporate bodies,” the UCC said in a blogpost on Saturday 17th October. They added that the lift of the suspension was subject to strict compliance with the set out regulations.

Some highlights

The UCC said the procedure for the sale and registration of SIM cards to unnatural persons shall only be limited to bodies that include companies duly incorporated or registered under the Companies Act 2012 and NGOs duly authorised and permitted to operate in Uganda in accordance with the Non-Governmental Organisations Act 2016.

These procedures also apply to Trusts duly incorporated or registered under the Trustees Incorporation Act Cap 165, ministries, departments and agencies of government, duly constituted in accordance with the laws of Uganda, embassies, foreign missions and consulates, duly recognised in Uganda by the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

For companies, telecom operators are required to obtain company documents including a copy of the national identity card or passport of the managing director, as well as a letter on a company letterhead signed by the managing director authorising the purchase of the SIM cards, whose authenticity they will verify with the Uganda Registration Service Bureau.

For ministries and departments of government, the letter must be signed by the permanent secretary of the Ministry under which the particular entity falls, and the telecommunication service provider must conduct due diligence to confirm the authenticity of the documents.

The maximum limit for the purchase of corporate SIM cards has been set at 100.

“Each telecommunications operator shall register a maximum of 100 corporate sim cards on its network,” said the Commission.

“Where an eligible corporate body requests to acquire more than 100 SIM cards on any telecom operator’s network, the telecom operator must advise the corporate body to seek express written approval from the Commission before allowing the transaction to take place.”

Telecom operators in Uganda are required to develop and submit to the Commission detailed guidelines on corporate SIM card registration within 30 days.

For corporate SIM cards that had already been issued before the latest regulations, telecom operators have a 30-day grace period to update the details in line with the new regulations.

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