News / Africa

Kenya to Pull Plug on Counterfeit Mobile Phones

A man with his phone in hand walks past a window branded in an 'Airtel' logo on May 20, 2011 in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. A man with his phone in hand walks past a window branded in an 'Airtel' logo on May 20, 2011 in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
x
A man with his phone in hand walks past a window branded in an 'Airtel' logo on May 20, 2011 in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
A man with his phone in hand walks past a window branded in an 'Airtel' logo on May 20, 2011 in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Gabe Joselow
— Mobile phone subscribers in Kenya may wake up Monday morning to find their phones no longer work, as the nation's telecom companies enact a nation-wide switch-off of all counterfeit devices. Retailers and customers have mixed reactions to the plan, which could affect up to three million mobile phones.

Justus Maluki has come to River Road in downtown Nairobi to look for a new mobile phone, fearing that the model he is currently using may be a fake.

"I was worried about it because it is even Nokia, but it is not from Nokia company, so I didn't believe that it would be alright," said Maluki.  "I sensed that I should get a better phone before it is switched off."

Maluki, like many other Kenyans, is concerned that his phone will be rendered useless Monday following a government order to turn off all counterfeit mobile phones.

Working with the country's mobile operators, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has developed a database listing all the legitimate phones in the country.

If your phone's individual identification number, known as an IMEI, is not on the list, it will be deactivated.

Francis Wangusi, Director General of the CCK says security is the country's primary concern, particularly as many Kenyans use their phones to conduct money transfers through programs like M-Pesa.

"One of the things is that we are pre-empting what possibly could happen just in case criminals become smarter, to try an use the invalidity of the IMEI numbers on counterfeit mobile phones to be able to escape the police dragnet in case they have used it for intruding into the M-Pesa system," said Wangusi.

Wangusi also says there may be health risks in using counterfeit phones, which he says emit more radiation than genuine models.

Wangus notes that phone manufacturers have a business interest in removing counterfeits from the market, but says that was not a driving factor in the decision to switch off the fakes.

"They had, like any other companies of course complained about this, even mobile service providers had complained about the factor that optimization of their networks was not achieved because of the [counterfeit] mobile phones," added Wangusi.

Mobile phone companies like Samsung and Nokia support the move, and are providing collection centers for people to turn in their counterfeit models.

But retailers on the street disapprove of the government's plan, saying when they buy phones from wholesalers, they have no way to know whether they are real or fake.

Catherine runs a mobile phone stand in the capital, and says her customers are especially wary of the lesser-known Chinese models that she has been selling.

"Right now every client is complaining, and we don't need China phones, and for me I know that right now there are China phones that are original. So for me, right now, it's really affected, it's really affected," Catherine noted.

Tony Aluda is another retailer in downtown Nairobi, who sells phones from a U.S.-based brand called Zedd.

Aluda feels bad for customers who bought counterfeits from other sellers because it was the only way they could afford the kind of phone they wanted.

"To the customers, to the end users, it's unfair because many times they buy the products out of ignorance, because when they look at the features they want and the money they have they can afford maybe that unregistered phone," Aluda explained.

According to the CCK nearly 30 million Kenyans, three quarters of the population, have mobile phones, which means 10 percent of all subscribers could be affected by the switch off.

Kenya's neighbor Uganda, inspired by the idea, is planning to follow suit with its own plans to cut off counterfeits in November.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid