Out of the about five million mobile phone devices imported into the country each year, 40% of them are smuggled through the ports and airports by dealers evading taxes to the tune of millions of Ghana Cedis.
In dealing with this challenge, the Minster of Communications and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has announced that Ghana has merged its central equipment identity registry database with a global database which will see to the registration of all phones.
Speaking at the Information Ministry’s meet the press series in Accra, Sector Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, hinted that concerns of evading tax with such devices through unapproved routes will be dealt with.
“To address the challenge of the smuggling and trade in counterfeit, stolen and substandard mobile devices, and increase the potential for enhanced revenues, technology has been developed to ensure that these devices only function when they enter the country through legal means. A Central Equipment Identity Registry (CEIR) records all devices in the country and reduces the influx of smuggled and counterfeit mobile devices. Each operator has an Equipment Identity Registry (EIR) which is a database that contains all the IMEI numbers of the handsets of all the subscribers on a particular cellular network”, Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful said.
She further said that “data from Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), confirms that 40% of these mobile devices enter the Ghanaian market illegally, without government benefiting from the expected tax revenue. Ghana has about 34 million mobile subscribers with a mobile penetration rate exceeding 119% and there is a huge market for mobile devices.”
“The unregulated market in Ghana has resulted in a thriving device black market with sales of smuggled mobile devices, a high incidence of device theft and cloning device identifications. Smuggled devices are sold through visible retail sites, unofficial retail outlets and online websites”, she explained.
The impact of the smuggling and trade of counterfeit mobile devices include the loss of revenue to government, the battle of unfair competition by registered businesses from smuggled devices which are cheaper and the health implications due to products not designed to meet regulatory requirements on the market.
The Minister said CEIR is a central EIR database which integrates IMEI numbers of EIR of all the networks. As the information is stored in the CEIR, it will be periodically updated in the EIR of all the networks.
She added that the Ghana CEIR will be connected to the global database (GSMA database) to access the IMEI of approved and blacklisted devices. This will ensure that mobile devices entering the country are properly authenticated.
It will also be connected to the databases of all mobile network operators in Ghana, to synchronize and update data of blacklisted and whitelisted devices in Ghana. This will ensure that only approved mobile devices recognized by the CEIR would function in Ghana.
It will generate and store a list of all blacklisted and whitelisted devices in our own repository.
The importation of mobile devices will also require that the IMEI of the devices are captured on the CEIR database during declaration. The captured information will synchronize with the GSMA database and confirm the standard and ownership status of the device. Compliance to customs duty payment will be ensured during the declaration process.