Burkina Faso plans to limit SIM card ownership

Burkina Faso plans to limit SIM card ownership

The government of Burkina Faso has announced a new bill that will limit SIM card ownership in the country.

With the stated aim (similar to that of many other countries regulating SIM use) of increasing mobile security, a new bill, announced last week allows users to hold no more than two SIM cards from a mobile provider. In addition, the sale of SIM cards will only be permitted in approved agencies and points of sale.

One news outlet explains that the use of multiple SIM cards can allow for so-called SIM farms to be built. Multiple SIMs can then be connected to computer servers to send large amounts of SMS spam.

Aminata Zerbo-Sabané, Burkina Faso's Minister of Digital Transition, Posts, and Electronic Communications, has been quoted as saying that this measure is aimed at reducing the improper use of electronic communication services.

She mentioned in her announcement that there was already a December 2018 decree overseeing that identification process. “However, after several years of implementation, challenges and deficiencies have been observed,” she said.

While not, strictly speaking, a registration exercise, the controls on where SIM cards are sold will no doubt limit bulk sales of SIMs – and possibly, over time, affect subscription numbers.

In 2021, Togo set a cap on the number of active SIM cards per user per operator, but a number of other African countries seem to have gone down the registration route, with varying levels of success.

Whether caps on SIM ownership are more effective at limiting criminal ownership of SIMs is unclear, but they are probably a cheaper and less disruptive method than registration has so far proved to be in many countries.

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