MTN Ghana, Africa’s largest mobile operator’s third-most profitable market, is preparing to deactivate a quarter of its subscribers’ SIM cards on Thursday in order to comply with a biometric registration directive from the country’s regulators.

The directive issued by Ghana’s National Communications Authority concerns the deactivation of SIM cards that have completed the first stage of a SIM registration process, or the linking of their Ghana Card ID to their SIM card, but not the second stage, which involves biometric capture.

By November 26, approximately 22.1 million MTN Ghana subscribers had completed the first stage, with 16.4 million having completed the bio-capture phase. This means that on December 1st, 5.7 million subscribers will be eligible for deactivation. MTN stated on Tuesday that it is committed to the registration process in order to build an accurate customer database and help reduce fraud in the country.

MTN said it will provide an update on Friday on the process’s impact, including revenue, as well as initiatives to re-register subscribers. All deactivated cards can be reactivated within six months, or until May 31, 2023.

MTN Ghana accounted for slightly more than a tenth, or R9.9 billion, of the mobile operator’s revenue in the six months to June 30, trailing only Nigeria and South Africa. The company has also been dealing with the fallout from a new 1.5% levy on electronic money transfer services, which prompted it to reduce transaction fees by a quarter to cushion the blow.

SIM registration rules have also caused problems in Nigeria, with the mobile operator reporting in October that the rules caused a 57 000 drop in subscribers in its third quarter to end September, though they were still up 10% to 74.1 million over a nine-month period.

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