Malawians have expressed mixed reactions over mandatory SIM card registrations being championed by the state owned Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA).

On Monday MACRA released a statement saying Malawians who fail to register their phone sim cards by 31 March this year will automatically be barred from their respective networks.

“The Communications Act (2016) gives powers to the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to enforce mandatory registration of sim cards and generic numbers.

“In collaboration with all phone companies in Malawi, MACRA is therefore calling upon the general public to go to their respective phone service providers to have their numbers registered by 31st March, 2018. Any number that is not registered by this date will automatically be barred from its network until registration is done,” reads in part the statement.

Added the statement: “New subscribers are advised to register upon acquisition of their numbers with the service provider, be it the phone company, distributor, agent or dealer of the electronic communications licensee, authorized to provide or sell generic numbers or sim cards.”

The statement has attracted heated debate on the social media with many people questioning the motive behind the whole move.

Nellie Myburgh wrote: “Misplaced priorities. The resources for such an excercise would be better spent on critical developmental issues.”

Another concerned citizen Anthony Kawinga wrote: “There will be great loss of customers to service provider with this nonstarter system……………imagine how can someone travel all the way from Hanyezi to Kasungu boma just to register his or her number?……it is very expensive indeed considering transport expenses.”

On his part Chauncy Mopho Jere asked mobile service providers to consider safeguarding the privacy of customers.

“Whilst addressing security and criminal activity concerns is important, policymakers and MACRA should ensure there are also appropriate privacy safeguards and effective legal oversight to protect consumers’ personal data and privacy. This is critical for building consumer
confidence in any registration scheme,” wrote Jere.

Concurring with Jere’s remarks, Teri Sequeira said the exercise will be costly especially to grassroots.

“What do people in the rural areas with no documentation do? The impact on profit margins for mobile companies, banks and mobile money? This will also restrict phone services to many – I guess there’s business to be made lending out phones to poor people,” Sequeira wrote.

Meanwhile debate continues on the matter.

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