MTN Ghana could cut off a quarter of its subscribers on Thursday

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MTN Ghana, which is Africa's largest mobile operator's third-most lucrative market, is bracing for the potential deactivation of a quarter of its subscriber's SIM cards on Thursday, as it looks to comply with directive from regulators in that country over biometric registration.

The directive from Ghana's National Communications Authority concerns deactivating those SIM cards that have completed the first stage of a SIM registration process, or linking of their Ghana Card ID to their SIM card, but not the second stage, which concerns biometric capture.

As of November 26, about 22.1 million MTN Ghana subscribers had completed the first stage while 16.4 million had completed the bio-capture phase. This means 5.7 million subscribers would be eligible for deactivation on 1 December. MTN said on Tuesday it was committed to the registration exercise to build an accurate customer database to help minimise fraud in the country.

MTN said it will provide an update on Friday on the effect, including on revenue, of the process, as well as initiatives to re-register subscribers. All deactivated cards can be reactivated within six months, or a deadline of the end of May 2023.

MTN Ghana accounted for just over a tenth, or R9.9 billion, of the mobile operator's revenue in its half-year to end-June, putting it behind Nigeria and SA. The business has also been dealing with the implications of a new 1.5% levy on electronic money transfer services introduced in May, which has prompted it to cut its transaction fees by a quarter to cushion the blow.

SIM registration rules have also been a headache in Nigeria, with the mobile operator saying in October the rules prompted a 57 000 fall in subscribers in its third quarter to end September, though over a nine-month period, they were still up 10% to 74.1 million.

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