The Rise of African SIM Registration: The Emerging Dynamics of Regulatory Change

Kevin Donovan, A.K. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The African experience with mobile telephony has been extolled as a defining moment in the continent’s contemporary economic, social, and political development. Yet SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) registration schemes are threatening to throttle the technology’s developmental potential. These mandates, which require the registration of identity information to activate a mobile SIM card, are fast becoming universal in Africa, with little to no public debate about the wider social or political effects. Whereas some authors have explored the motivations behind these drives, as well as their potential economic impacts, this paper focuses its critique on the broader diversity of implications of this regulatory transformation. Viewing SIM registration through a lens that combines surveillance studies and information & communication technologies for development, it examines elements of resistance across a range of actors, as well as other emerging effects like access barriers, linkages to financialization, and Africa’s budding mobile surveillance society.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFirst Monday
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2014


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