Mandatory SIM card registration will be implemented in a phases between January and June 2015, while its preparatory work will commence this year, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has said.
SIM card registration which has been described as a global phenomenon is believed to reduce the misuse of mobile phone service which leads to increased acts of crime through unregistered usage.
Macra communications officer, Clara Mulonya, responding to an e-mailed questionnaire, said the SIM card registration exercise is expected to commence within next financial year.
“The project will be implemented in a phased approach involving all the licensed mobile operators in the country.
“Once the implementation roadmap is discussed and agreed with stakeholders, awareness campaign will follow, outlining the steps to be taken by consumers in the process of registering SIM cards with their respective service providers,” she said.
Mulonya, however, observed that SIM card registration will also have to wait for the review of the Communications Act which she said is expected to be done this year.
Without disclosing the budgeted cost of the project, Mulonya said both the regulator and the mobile telephone providers will bear it.
But Macra said regardless of the challenges that need to be overcome in implementing the project through the necessary legal and regulatory framework, there are a number of benefits that accrue from such an exercise.
A local expert working for one of the government agencies earlier noted that making SIM card registration mandatory would possibly be burdensome as that would force customers to take time to visit registration centres to provide documentation and submit personal information.
The expert, who did not want to be named, noted that clearly, this would inconvenience a lot of existing unregistered users and mobile operators alike as they would both have to struggle to make sure that they comply with the SIM registration requirement.
However, analysts still contend that if successfully implemented, the benefits of SIM card registration could go a long way in creating a safer environment.
According to available information, by end of last year, out of the 55 African countries, at least 49 require or are in the process of requiring the registration of personally identifiable data to activate a prepaid SIM cards.