Safaricom to Implement Biometric SIM Registration


A major East African telecom is preparing to implement biometric registration for customers who want to swap SIM cards into new devices.

Announcing the plans to media, Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore explained that the idea is to curb fraud. One such criminal incident recently led to the arrest of 22 individuals, including Safaricom staffers.

The move could have an important impact on mobile fraud in Kenya, with Safaricom being a leading telecom in the country, and one of the top providers of mobile money transfer services in all of Africa.

Telecoms in multiple other states have implemented biometric sim registration in recent years, though it has generally been at the behest of government authorities and regulators seeking to fight crime. Safaricom has so far made no mention of state pressure to implement its own biometric registration system, but rather seems to be pursuing out of its own interest in reducing fraud.

Safaricom has not set a timeline for its biometric registration project, but reports that the company’s Director of Corporate Affairs has confirmed that Safaricom is “in the final stages of developing the framework to be used” for the program.

Safaricom  is exploring the use of fingerprint identification for key services such as replacement of subscriber identity module (SIM) cards to stem fraud that dogs the telecommunications sector.

Chief executive Bob Collymore said incidents such as the recent SIM swap fraud that led to the arrest of 22 suspects, including some Safaricom staff, calls for “more technical solutions.”

“We vet people quite carefully. It is only that some come in clean then become corrupted,” he said in his first session with the press after a nine-month medical leave

“We are looking at introducing biometrics for SIM swaps. Meanwhile, if you want to do SIM swaps and the line is active, we will send a message with a request and you will have to confirm the request for the swap,” he added.

Director of Corporate Affairs at Safaricom, Stephen Chege, said the firm wants to elongate the identification process required for services such as SIM swaps to lock out fraudsters.

“If we bring in biometrics and someone tries social engineering, at some point they will be required to put in details like a thumb print to prove if that is a genuine customer authorizing SIM swap,” said Mr Chege, adding that the move could solve the problem of fraudsters posing as Safaricom staff to extract vital information from customers.

He told the Business Daily that the firm is in the process of completing the framework that will see customers register more personal details to secure their identity.

Sources: Business Daily,