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Lawmakers blamed for poor management of telecoms fraud in Africa

A telecoms risk management expert, Ola Akibola says part of the difficulties the telecoms industry in Africa has in dealing with telecoms fraud is because lawmakers and regulators in Africa do not understand the telecom industry.

Akibola is the Technical Sales Director of UK-based Connectiva Systems, a Telecoms Risk Management vendor, and he tells Adom News “African lawmakers and industry regulators need education about the industry in order to be able to help fight telecoms fraud.”

He spoke on the fringes of a two-day High Level Telecoms Risk Management Conference in Ghana, organized by the UK-based BSP Media Group, a business intelligence solutions company.

The conference brought together top executives of telecoms operators and vendors, the National Communications Authority (NCA), and the Ghana Police Service.

Telecoms Risk Management experts were drawn from various developed telecoms markets like the UK, USA and Israel to share their experiences and solutions with the Ghanaian industry players.

Ghana is particularly faced with the SIM boxes challenge, where fraudsters terminate international calls through local mobile phone numbers and siphon money meant for telecoms operators and the state into individual pockets.

Prepaid fraud is also rampant in the country, as many fraudsters send fake messages to prepaid mobile phone users and demand replies under the pretext of giving some reward but end up draining people of their phone credit.

Akibola noted that because the lawmakers do not understand the telecoms industry they are unable to pass appropriate laws to deal with these fraudulent acts.

“Prosecutors also face a difficulty preferring charges against such fraudsters because the existing laws cannot support such charges – and the judges are also unable to sentence them because they cannot appreciate how the industry works,” he said.

He however noted that the challenges facing the Ghanaian, and African telecoms industry went beyond SIM boxes and prepaid fraud.

“By focusing all their energies on SIM boxes and prepaid fraud, telecom operators risk taking their minds off other major revenue leakage areas,” he said.

Akibola explained that the telecoms industry risks loses across the entire network, its operations, the people in the organization, and business processes, saying that “even if you have the best network and the people and processes are not right you will continue to lose money.”

He noted that risk managers in telecom companies need to pay close attention to when a subscriber comes unto the network, when he makes a call, the configuration on the switches of the network, the billing system and the deployment of some network elements like promotions.

“It is estimated that between 2.5 per cent and 15 per cent of revenue from the telecom industry is lost through leakage and this happens through poor billing systems, deficient processes, inefficient network switch configuration, which may mean the network is recording communication activity wrongly,” he said.

He said so far telecom operators in Africa are able to recover just about five per cent of the revenue that leaks, but with the help of risk management vendors they could be able to retrieve a substantial part of the revenue that is leaking.

“Connectiva has a client in Ghana who used our services and is now able to save a lot of money which was leaking through other channels until we came onboard,” he said.

Akibola said telecom operators in Ghana had used the revenue assurance and fraud solutions as the main risk management strategies, but they needed to go beyond those and use customer experience management strategies in managing risk.

“Telecom operators need to have a deeper visibility into customer profile from the time the customer joins the network, his background, what kind of services and packages he is interested in, how much credit he consumes within what time, and other such detailed information in order to ensure that the operator is getting full value from the customer,” he said.

He noted that in terms of risk management, Ghanaian telecom operators were on the upward but had not arrived yet, saying that there is hope for the industry in Ghana in managing risks as it matures from an emerging one to a saturated one.
By: Samuel Dowuona

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