As digital access has expanded globally, digital identification has become an important concern for governments over the world. This is especially true for Africa, where many governments have started to push for various kinds of digital identification registration.
Since 2017, different governments in Africa have mandated their citizens to re-register their SIM cards. From Nigeria to Kenya, non-compliance with the government's directives usually means you get barred from using your SIM to access the internet, make calls or receive calls.
In most countries in SubSaharan Africa, you need to provide your personal information before you can buy and activate any SIM card. But why are governments concerned about digital identification?
Why is SIM registration important?
When inserted in a mobile device, a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) allows people to communicate with other people over a mobile network. This could be via making calls, sending text messages, or connecting to the internet.
Over the last few years, SIMs and Mobile phones have become an integral part of how we communicate in Africa. However, they have also become tools for fraudsters and criminals to commit crimes.
In Nigeria, for instance, the Nigerian Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Pantami, said the exercise was to combat the high rate of insecurity in Nigeria and also to update Nigeria’s citizens' database.
In Kenya and Ghana, the diagnosis is similar. The communication ministries in both countries said the exercise was to reduce the rate of fraud, especially fraud related to mobile money scams.
Some of the information collected during a SIM registration include personal information like your name, age, location, and nationality meaning that registered SIMs can be used to track people.
While registration of SIM cards is not a silver bullet for these challenges, it is significantly harder to track criminals in places where they are not registered.
As mentioned earlier, the SIM registration process depends on the country. That's why we have compiled the SIM registration process for Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Cameroon, and Ethiopia
SIM Registration in Nigeria
The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Ali Pantami, announced on Tuesday the 15th of December that Nigerians had to re-register their SIM by linking their phone numbers to their National Identity Number (NIN).
The registration deadline was extended 9 times. Although millions of Nigerians successfully linked their SIM cards to their NIN, telecommunication companies in Nigeria blocked about 73 million SIMs in April 2022.
How to register your SIM in Nigeria
New users need their NIN slip or card to register new SIM cards. All you have to do is visit any mobile network operator shop or kiosk.
You will also be asked to fill a bio-data form that requires your name, age, gender and nationality, and alternative phone numbers.
Existing users simply need their NIN number to reregister. You can retrieve your NIN number by dialing *346# on your mobile phone.
How to link your NIN to your Airtel mobile number
You can link your NIN to your Airtel number in 3 ways:
- By visiting the Airtel website here
- By dialing *121*1#
- By visiting any Airtel service centre close to you.
How to your NIN to your MTN Mobile Number
You can link your NIN to your MTN number in 3 ways:
- By visiting the MTN website here
- By dialing *785#
- By visiting any MTN service centre close to you.
How to link your NIN to your Glo Mobile Number
You can link your NIN to your Glo number in 3 ways:
- By visiting the GLO website here
- By sending “UPDATE NIN” with your first and last name to 109 via text message
- You can also visit a Glo service centre close to you.
How to link your NIN to your 9mobile Number
You can link your NIN to your 9mobile number in 3 ways:
- By visiting the 9mobile website here
- By dialing *200*8#
- By visiting any 9mobile service centre close to you.
How to check your SIM registration status in Nigeria
The process of checking your SIM registration status depends on your mobile phone carrier.
MTN - Dial *789*1#, or text “REG” to 789.
AIRTEL - Simply call the Airtel customer care line 111/121 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
GLO - Text REG to 746 or 3456.
9mobile - Dial 746 or 200
Registering your SIM in Ghana
The Ministry of communication and Digitalisation in Ghana commenced a sim registration exercise on October 1, 2021. The exercise lasted for 6 months.
The ministry said the exercise was to help the government build a database, reduce fraudulent transactions, and reduce the amount of pre-registered SIM cards sold.
How to register your SIM in Ghana
- New users can buy and register their SIM at any mobile network operator shop or agent. All you need is your Ghana card.
- Foreigners can use their passport or travel card to register, but the SIM would only be valid for 30 days. Foreigners that are staying longer would need to get a Non-Citizen Ghana Card to register the SIM.
- New users would be required to fill a form and provide their names, Ghana card and ID number, date of birth, digital address, nationality, and gender.
- Existing customers can re-register by submitting their Ghana Card details via USSD Short Code to *404#.
How to check SIM registration status in Ghana
You can check your SIM registration status by dialling *400# or by sending a blank text message to 400. You can also visit the office or shop of your service provider.
SIM Registration in Kenya
On 24th February, 2022, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) directed mobile network operators in Kenya to update the information of their current subscribers.
The registration was extended by six months and it's expected to end in October 2022. Kenya is pushing the SIM registration exercise to curb cases of mobile money fraud.
How to register your SIM in Kenya
- New sim users need to provide their full name, and the original and copy of any form of identification( identity card, service card, passport or alien card number).
- You will also need to provide your date of birth, gender, physical address, postal address, and alternative phone numbers.
- Foreign nationals are required to present an original and valid passport or original alien card.
- New and old users can register by visiting any mobile agent of your mobile network operator with your valid means of identification.
- Existing users can also register by filling out the form and uploading their ID card on the website of their mobile network operator.
How to check your sim registration status in Kenya
You can check your SIM registration status by dialing *106# or by contacting your service provider
SIM Registration in Rwanda
In September 2021 Rwanda's Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) directed telecom operators in Rwanda to re-register their old users.
Charles Gahungu, the General Manager ICT Regulation Department at RURA, said that this new procedure will increase SIM card security and reduce fraud in Rwanda.
The registration exercise was done at service providers' service centres, authorized agent shops, and kiosks.
People were required to present their identification cards and agree for their photos to be taken.
Service providers also ensured that the information on users' National ID cards matched the information on the National Identification Agency’s database.
How to register your SIM in Rwanda
New users can register their SIM by visiting any mobile network operator shop with their National ID cards.
How to check your SIM registration status in Rwanda
Existing users can check their SIM registration status by dialling *125#.
Uganda was one of the first countries in Africa to direct their citizens to re-register their SIM cards. In 2017, The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) directed all the telecommunication companies to update their customer database from 12th April 2017. The directive was influenced by the killing of Uganda’s Assistant Inspector General of Police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, his driver and bodyguard. The UCC deactivated lines that weren't registered on the 20th of April, 2017.
How to register your SIM in Rwanda
New users need a passport photograph and national ID to buy and register a SIM card. All they have to do is visit any service centre with their national ID card and passport photograph.
The only acceptable identification documents are;
- National Identity Card for Ugandans.
- Passports for foreign nationals
- Registration documents from the office of the Prime Minister for Refugees.
Existing users can register their SIM card by dialling *197# and following the prompts on their screen.
How to check your SIM registration status
Existing users can check their registration status by dialling *197# and following the prompts.
Cameroon is very strict with its SIM registration requirements. In 2019, MTN Cameroon, Orange Cameroun and Viettel Cameroun (Nexttel) were fined FCFA1-billion, FCFA1.5-billion and FCFA1-billion by Cameroon's Telecommunications Regulatory Board (TRB) for not complying with its subscriber regulation guidelines.
At the start of 2022, MTN Cameroon, Orange Cameroun, Nexttel and Camtel deactivated a total of 891,082 SIM cards for non-compliance with subscriber identification rules.
How to register a SIM card in Cameroon
New users can buy a SIM card from any mobile network shop. All they need is a valid national ID card or passport.
Foreigners need to present either a valid passport, residence card, or a refugee card.
How to check your SIM registration status
You can check the status of your MTN SIM registration by sending STATUS to 8758
Although the Ethiopian government granted an operating license in 2021 to the Global Partnership for Ethiopia - a private international consortium of telecommunications giants, Ethio telecom is still the only mobile network operator in Ethiopia.
It is state-owned and it's also known as the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC).
Since Ethio Telecom is the sole mobile network provider in Ethiopia, there haven't been calls to re-register.
How to register a SIM card in Ethiopia
- New users can buy a SIM card from any Ethio Telecom shop or agent. All you need is a government ID card.
- Foreigners are required to provide a photocopy of their passport data page and at least two passport photographs. They are also required to fill out a customer application form (CAF).
After registering, you can activate the SIM by
- Inserting the SIM card into your mobile phone.
- Inputting your PIN (if requested).
- Dialing *989# and following the instructions.
How to check your SIM registration status in Ethiopia
You can check your SIM registration status by calling the Ethio Telecom customer care number at *994#.
Although registering your SIM is stressful and long, it's one of the best ways to protect your SIM from fraud. It's also a big help to the government and mobile network operators.