Techgh24 has gathered that the July 31, 2022 deadline for SIM registration will be extended but with some punitive conditions for unregistered SIM cards.
The Minister of Communications and Digitalization, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful will be issuing a statement today to announce the extension and the conditions attached, which were proposed by the telcos themselves at a meeting between the various stakeholders at the Ministry.
Reliable sources have been telling Techgh24 that the conditions, which they describe as quite complex, include the fact SIM cards that remain unregistered by the July 31 deadline will be suspended and given a grace period to register. During the grace period, such SIMs will only be allowed to make and receive voice calls but no data and SMS services.
Again, if they remain unregistered after a given period, during the grace period, they will begin to attract higher tariffs for calls made until they register.
The Minister’s statement will bring further clarity.
The telcos proposed these conditions in the spirit of compromise, as all stakeholders agreed that a complete deactivation of SIM cards on July 31 will not be in the interest of any party – telcos, government, and phone users alike.
There are several genuine reasons that necessitates an extension and compromise.
For instance, the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) players like Surfline, Broadband Home, Busy Ghana and Telesol were prevented from starting SIM registration on October 1, 2021 with the telcos, so they need more time to complete theirs.
When the exercise started in October last year, the BWAs were asked by National Communications Authority (NCA) to wait, as the focus was on the telcos who had large numbers.
But they later learnt that the directive had to do mainly with technical issues and integration unto National Identification Authority’s platforms among other things. As a result, they only started work on integration sometime at beginning of the second quarter of this year and that also had several challenges with the central party.
Everything was cleared for them to commence registration on July 21, 2022 (nine days ago), but they had to do their own test runs to ensure the system works, so they started actual registration just a few days ago.
So the BWAs, which have a total of less than 50,000 customers, have at least one month extra to register their customers.
Massive unregistered SIMs
Moreover, with the telcos, where the chunk of the work lies, as of April 2022, when the NCA published it latest voice subscription figures, there were 41,305,059, and the MoCD is reporting that just about 15 million SIM cards have been linked to Ghana Card, so far.
This means there are over 26 million SIM cards which are not yet linked to Ghana Cards, and there are unconfirmed reports that a lot of those unregistered SIM cards have mobile money wallets, a significant number of whom owe micro loans on the mobile money platforms.
MoMo Loans and E-levy
Beside the fact that the deactivation of those cards would mean the telcos and their partner financial institutions will lose money, government also stands to lose a significant portion of the expected revenue from e-levy if all those SIM cards were deactivated.
Already, government has been forced to review its e-levy target by more than 90% from GHS6.5 billion to GHS611 million after the first two months yielded a paltry GHS93.7 million out of the GHS1.46 billion projected.
Ghana Card Backlogs
The other genuine reason the deadline is not feasible is that several people have registered for the Ghana Card but the NIA has not delivered the cards to them yet so they have a huge backlog on their hands.
For instance, persons who registered for Ghana Card on July 4, 2022 are still waiting to collect their cards. Other registered months ago and have still not received their cards yet. Some have also been queueing at registration centres daily but never get registered.
For some, the cards have been printed but the registration officers don’t seem to know the whereabouts of the card. At least one person told Techgh24 she was tossed around three locations before she could finally find her card at one of those locations.
“Initially they asked me to go get a police report and bring to them just to create the impression that they actually gave me the card and I lost it. But later they redirected me to a another location and I found my card there,” the lady said.
Apart from the fact that the Ghana Card is significantly dragging the SIM registration process, it is also threatening to deny people access to banking services and even to their own bank accounts if the July 31, 2022 deadline is maintained.
Experts have therefore suggested that government should wave the deadline until there are no more queues at the Ghana Card registration centres, then they will know those who are deliberately refusing to register. But as things are now, it would appear that people go to the centres and queue but they do not get their cards.
Government believes that when all SIM cards are registered with the Ghana Card, it will help the security agencies to easily identify persons who commit fraud using their phones and also help various state agencies monitor digital transactions for the purposes of taxation.