Tanzania: SIM Card Switch Off to Negatively Impact On Revenues

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(file photo).

Locking out phone users who fail to have their SIM cards registered biometrically Monday, would adversely impact the economy and the communication sector. Smooth execution of the plan seems to be hampered by the slow pace at which the National Identification Authority (Nida) in issuing the National IDs, the sole document required for biometric registration, which kicked off on May 1, last year.

Analysts said switching off SIM cards would adversely affect financial services and by extension government, companies and individuals' revenues.

In mid-December, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) reported that out of the 47 million active SIM cards, only 42 percent had been registered.

"It will be hard for people to communicate. As it is, economic and trading activities will be hurt," warned an economist from Mzumbe University, Prof Honest Ngowi.

Financial services expert Bosco Simba cautioned that social business communication, among stakeholders, would be affected and eventually causing losses. "A phone is used as a major means of payment for various transactions. This suggests that by locking out phone users, telcos and government will lose in terms of revenues," warned Mr Simba.

He said Nida may have to shoulder the blame for citizens' failure to register their SIM cards biometrically.

"The government should rethink on the plan to switch off unregistered SIM cards. It needs to come up with a solution to the problem," he advised.

University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) economist Abel Kinyondo said the impact of switching off SIM cards would touch not only phone users, but the entire value chain in the service.

Dr Kinyondo said should the number of mobile phone users go down, people would lose jobs.

"More financial transactions are conducted through mobile phones than banks. Through the phone, one can deposit, withdraw and borrow money. So, switching off SIM cards would be a blow to the public," he stressed. A financial service agent based in Moshi District, Kilimanjaro Region, Mr Patrick Boisafi, said it was inevitable for the move (switching off SIM cards) to negatively impact on their revenues.

He said most people who had not registered their Sim cards were those who normally wait until the last minute of the deadline. "But with the current trend, this time around they did a grave mistake," he noted.

Another agent Upendo Mosha said they were worried with how they would be impacted.

A fishmonger at Manyema Market in Moshi, Mr Ramadhan Besha said he has since asked his customers to pay him in cash as he was unsure whether he would beat the Monday deadline in having his Sim card registered.

"I have tried but in vein to get my ID number. This is going to affect my business," lamented Mr Besha.

Mwanza residents yesterday requested President John Magufuli to further extend the deadline for SIM card biometric registration.

"We need more time so that we can secure our National IDs or, if our SIM cards get locked, our lives would be adversely impacted," Buhongwa resident Gerald Kayoko noted.

Ms Astelia Anas said registration exercise was being affected by unfavourable weather conditions.

"While in queue, we get pounded by rain. Registration documents get wet, forcing us to start afresh filling in the forms," she lamented.

Ms Tatu Olimpia suggested that Nida should have a culture of sharing to public a target on the number set to be registered per day. "You arrive at the registration centre at 4am, while tolerating rain and sun, surprisingly when it reaches evening you leave the place without being attended to, this is unacceptable," she cried foul.

Mwanza Regional Commissioner John Mongella, who visited Nida offices at Mkolani Street, urged on citizens to be patient, saying nobody would remain unregistered.

"I understand the registration process is featured with some challenges. So we need to be tolerant if we are to make it," said Mr Mongella.

Additional reporting: Jesse Mikofu, Daniel Mjema and Janeth Joseph.

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