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Ban of SIM Card Importation, Experts Back FG

The Federal Government of Nigeria’s ban on the importation of subscriber identity module (SIM) cards has received huge support from the stakeholders in the Nigerian digital economy. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami announced on Monday in Lagos.

Pantami said Africa’s biggest country should not be importing things that could be produced within.

“Let me make it clear that the federal government will no longer tolerate the importation of SIM cards. We are now producing them in Nigeria.

“Our aim is to increase indigenous content in the ICT sector so that by 2025, we will be self-reliant by at least 80 percent”, the minister noted.

Sir Demola Aladekomo, the Chairman of Chams plc, the operator of CardCentre, a Chams subsidiary that recently installed a major SIM card plant said “Good move. Due long time ago. Better late than never.”

He assured that local players can conveniently meet and surpassed the local demands for SIM cards.  “We recently launched our plant with a 20 million SIM Card order from MTN Nigeria. We are working and praying for a second line soon.”

Mr. Olajide Mafolabomi, CEO UCARD Innovations also believed that the ban was an overdue development.

He noted that he inspected SecureID SIM card plant in Lagos when he was working at Etisalat 12 years ago.

He lamented that the SIM factory has been lying fallow. “Then, all the operators had multiple manufacturers, and could afford to farm out a portion of their demand to SecureID.”

He disclosed that Gemalto and Oberthur, now Idemia had some initiatives to domicile manufacturing in Nigeria.

Likewise, Morpho, former Sagem Orga and a part of IDEMIA had a partnership with Altech West Africa. But the telcos have continued to import.

“For me, this actually injects life into investments that were at risk of going moribund. Just like RCV, SIM assembly is not so tech-intensive. I would say all forms of PCB Chip manufacturing, whether SIMs or EMV cards, must be locally domiciled,” he submitted.

Engr. Opeyemi Okunoren, Managing Director, Silicon Harbour said the ban is good news for local players, as it protects their huge investment in SIM plants.

According to him, the ban will allow the country to focus on where it adds the most value. These would include card body manufacture, milling, embedding, and personalization.

Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu, President, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) said, “Whatever we can produce, we shouldn’t import. SecureID has the capacity. What is needed is security.”