The Deputy Ranking Member of the Communication Committee of Parliament, Sam Nartey George, has pointed to the dire consequences of blocking SIM cards after the September 30 deadline announced by the Minister of Communication and Digitalisation.
Mr. Nartey George explained that, among others, the blockage will affect revenue generation, thus projected figures presented to the IMF for a bailout would not be realized.
“I can state on authority again, that the actions of the Minister do not just have implications for the service sector. It has implications for Ghana’s own conversations with the IMF as we speak. Because of our internal revenue generations, the scenarios have been built and sent to the IMF that this is how much the government rakes internally.
If you block SIM cards of about 3 million Ghanaians, you are talking about 10 million SIM cards. Those SIM cards when they are used for phone calls generate Communication Service Tax (CST) revenue when they are used for data generating CST revenue, and those who do mobile money generate e-levy. All of those figures are going to drop,” Mr. George stated in an interview on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show on September 13, 2022.
In 2021, the Ministry of Communication and Digitalisation, through the National Communications Authority (NCA) requested all mobile telephony subscribers to re-register their SIM cards. This directive came with a deadline. The only identification card required for the exercise is the Ghana Card. However, many subscribers do not have the card. This has resulted in many of them being unable to register their SIMs. Many stakeholders, therefore, called for an extension of the deadline.
It would be recalled that speaking at a press briefing on Sunday, July 31, the Communications and Digitalisation Minister, extended the deadline for SIM card re-registration from July 31, to September 30, 2022 “reluctantly”.
“Upon consultation with the industry and in view of the challenges enumerated above, I have very reluctantly decided to grant a conditional extension. The program will be extended to 30th September to end on the anniversary of its commencement,” she announced.
This was followed by the blockage of SIM cards that had not been re-registered as of September 5 by the National Communication Authority (NCA).
In relation to this, Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful on September 7, wrote in a Facebook post, “At a subsequent press conference in September, the full scope of the sanctions will be revealed. If you suffer that fate as a result of your own inaction, kindly do not blame your service provider. To be forewarned is to be forearmed”.
Additionally, any SIM that has not yet been completely registered will be unable to use voice and Internet services. Afterward, using unregistered SIMs will be more expensive”.
In reaction, the Ningo-Prampram MP posited that “As we speak, the Minister of Communication has not engaged with the Ministry of Finance to look at what the effect will be on the IMF conversation. That’s why I am saying that the fact that we have national security… unless they are asleep.
They cannot sit back and allow the Minister. What she is doing is digital apartheid. And this is xenophobic in the digital space. The powers that she thinks she has, are regulated by Article 296,” he explained.
In a related development, a Policy Analyst, Mr. Selorm Branttie who was also on the show expressed doubt over the feasibility of implementing the September 30 deadline.
“Per how they have run this whole enterprise so far, it is not going to be possible that by September 30 we would have every Ghanaian who has a SIM card complying with this re-registration module. I am very curious to see what will happen after September 30,” he said.
Mr. Branttie, therefore, dared Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful to block unregistered SIM cards after September 30. He opined that the consequences will be chaotic, “And I double dare the Minister to go by her own words and see the kind of chaos that will happen in this country. I am saying chaos because you are talking about flirting with the fortunes of the service sector which contributes more than 45% of our GDP.
You are talking about flirting and toying, making a petri-dish of the whole digitization agenda which is being run by the Vice President himself, and by so many different organizations, you are talking about flirting with our SDGs. You are talking about blocking digital access, you are talking about creating digital apartheid where people are being made to pay for another organization not fulfilling their obligation…when she has been the mother of all this chaos,” he stated.