Other Africa and Middle East:
Democratic Republic of the Congo; Tanzania; Mozambique; Lesotho;
Turkey; Egypt; Ghana.
Devices and Registration
The trend in these markets for additional controls and regulation
over devices and user registration has continued.
In Tanzania, for example, the NRA (‘TCRA’), issued regulations that
introduce a biometric registration requirement for SIMs, and
restrict the ownership of number of SIMs by customer. The TRCA has
directed disconnection of unverified SIMs in this category by 15
November 2022. A similar approach has been adopted in Ghana, which
in October 2021 commenced a SIM card re-registration process,
requiring registration of SIM cards against customers’ biometric
national identification cards, with instruction to bar
communications from non-registered SIMs by 30 September 2022.
Similarly, in Lesotho, in December 2021, the Minister of
Communication introduced new SIM Registration regulations, which
must be complied with by June 2023. The regulations require the
operator to enact biometric registration, establish a central
database with the Communications Authority, re-register SIMs with a
six-month timeline and enforce penalties of M5k per non-compliant
SIM card. Vodacom Group is taking steps to comply with these new
However, in February 2021, Vodacom DRC was fined US$3.65 million by
the Minister of Communications in relation to seven non-compliant
SIM cards that were in use. Vodacom DRC has challenged the findings
and the fine as part of an on-going legal action.
There has also been a number of updates in relation to spectrum
renewals and new allocations in the region.
In Ghana, Vodafone Ghana renewed its 900MHz and 1800MHz licences up
until 2029. However, Vodafone Ghana continues to negotiate with the
relevant ministries on the terms of this renewal, including on the
payment terms, with the current cost of the renewal standing at
US$25 million. In Lesotho, Vodacom Lesotho had extended its right
to use 3500MHz trial 5G spectrum up to 31 March 2022 when they
vacated the spectrum bands upon expiry of these rights of use.
Vodacom Lesotho is now engaging with the authorities to convert the
trial licence to a permanent licence.
In both Mozambique and Ghana, Vodacom Mozambique and Vodafone Ghana
are seeking to extend the rights to use spectrum that was
temporarily assigned to them during the COVID-19 programme, with
Vodacom Mozambique inquiring whether this could be converted into a
In addition, in Tanzania, the TCRA has indicated that it will be
convening a spectrum auction in the 700MHz, 2300MHz, 2600MHz and
2500MHz band in October 2022.
In addition to auctions and renewals, a new law was introduced in
the DRC in October 2021 that impacts Vodacom DRC’s operating
licences. Specifically, the new Communications Act requires all
operators to convert their current licences to new ‘technology
neutral’ licences. However, the Government have not yet set out the
detail on how this will work in practice.
Regulatory and Legal Disputes and Fines
A number of Vodafone and Vodacom companies in the region remain
involved in legal and regulatory disputes.
In Lesotho, for example, there is a long running dispute between
Vodacom Lesotho and the NRA (‘LCA’), on grounds their statutory
external auditors were not independent. The LCA has issued a
penalty of M134 million on Vodacom Lesotho and attempted to revoke
their licence on basis of non-payment, despite the finding being
subject to appeal. The LCA has been interdicted from enforcing the
payment or licence revocation pending resolution of the matter
before the Court. The matter was heard before the Court in December
2020, and judgment in still pending. Given the delay in
proceedings, Vodacom Lesotho is now seeking to settle the matter
with the LCA.
In Tanzania, the TCRA found that Vodacom Tanzania had failed to
comply with regulatory quality of service targets, and has ordered
Vodacom Tanzania to execute network improvement, with threat of
fines if they fail to comply.