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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid