Starlink disconnects South African customers

February 12, 2024
6 min read

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Victoria here,

Here's what I've got for you today: 

  • Starlink disconnects South African customers
  • Banks share customer data with Kenya's taxman
  • Airtel Malawi renews its licence for another 10 years 

  Starlink disconnects South African customers 

A Starlink dish placed on a fence next to a house
Gbadebo's Starlink setup

What happened? Last week, SpaceX purportedly disconnected several customers in South Africa from its satellite Internet service, Starlink, due to alleged trademark and copyright infringements.

While Starlink is not officially supported in South Africa, its roaming service works there. However, to ship Starlink kits directly to South Africa, users must register the service and have the kit delivered to a country that officially supports Starlink.

Among other businesses, StarSat Africa imports Starlink kits for South Africans. Last week, StarSat Africa introduced a plan to reduce prices for Starlink kits by between 13% and 20%.

So, SpaceX reportedly locked the accounts of 350-400 StarSat Africa customers, citing violations of the Starlink Terms of Service, unauthorised resale, and trademark infringement.

Consequently, the company insisted on the immediate cessation of unauthorised resales and the use of the Starlink mark to avoid confusion.

StarSat Africa revealed that SpaceX rejected its application to become an authorised Starlink reseller, prompting customers to migrate their accounts. The company is working with SpaceX to reactivate the locked accounts, with a 24-hour turnaround time for support tickets.

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Zoom out: The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa's (Icasa) licencing requirements pose a challenge to Starlink's direct-to-customer model in South Africa. Compliance with ownership regulations and the scarcity of new licences are obstacles, with potential costs and delays in obtaining existing licences.

Starlink's unwillingness to collaborate with licenced local ISPs complicates its national rollout. Authorised resellers are limited to business kits, complicating Starlink's South African operations.

Banks share customer data with Kenya's taxman

Kenya Revenue Authority

Banks are providing the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) with data regarding their foreign account holders.

Similarly, the KRA is receiving information about a resident taxpayer with an offshore account.

This move is part of the common reporting standards (CRS), where countries team up to share taxpayer information. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) cooked up the CRS to crack down on tax evasion.

For regular Joes, banks are dishing out details like account balance, address, date of birth, and ID numbers to the taxman. And for companies, they're coughing up registration information and details about who's in charge.

This development began last year when the Treasury Cabinet Secretary signed regulations requiring Kenyan banks and financial institutions to share information about foreigners' accounts with the KRA.

Here's the kicker: The KRA will share this information with 106 other countries, including tax havens like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. So, if you thought your secret stash was safe, think again.

This is all part of the plan to crack down on hidden cash stashed in offshore accounts. And, just as banks report large cash transactions, the taxman will examine accounts worth more than $250,000 ($KSh 40 million) owned by foreign nationals.

However, experts warn that they must be cautious about customer privacy, citing the Data Protection Act.

Bottom line: if you've got cash stashed away in some foreign account, the taxman might just come knocking soon. 

 Airtel Malawi renews its licence for another 10 years 


  Last week, Airtel Malawi's Managing Director, Charles Kamoto, announced that the telco has renewed its licence for another ten years to continue improving people's lives through its services.

The telco said it paid the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) a whopping MK59.4 billion ($35.3 million) in levies, fees, and spectrum.

It also threw an additional MK17.6 billion ($10.46 million) for international interconnect levies.

On the company's economic impact in Malawi, Kamoto highlighted Airtel's $176 million network infrastructure investment. Over 1,100 sites provide 2G, 3G, and 4G services, covering 88.2% of the country and serving 86.7% of the population.

But it's not just about the tech stuff. Airtel claims to be a job creator, boasting a distribution network of 28,000 SIM-selling and 115,000 airtime recharge outlets.

Moreover, it has over 7 million customers, with 2.6 million addicted to data services.

Kamoto also announced a 29.1% smartphone penetration rate, allowing more Malawians to experience digital life.

And it's not all take. Airtel Malawi claims to be a good “citizen” who contributes to the community through sports, disaster relief, education, and healthcare. Since 2016, they have paid MK69 billion ($41 million) in corporate taxes.

Zoom out: MACRA's Director General, Daud Sulemani, is pleased with investors' confidence in the communication sector. He aims to increase Internet penetration to 60% by 2028, up from 23% today.

Last week on Techpoint Africa

What I'm reading and watching


  • Application for the Innovest Afrika accelerator programme is open. Apply by February 14, 2024, here.
  • Kenyan startups focused on embedded finance, future fintech, SME productivity tools, and content like local gaming and mobile advertising can apply for Safaricom’s Spark Accelerator programme. For more information, check this out.
  • The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) is looking for an editor to support the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship. Apply here.
  • Application for the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) Class of 2025 is now open. Check out the one-year, fully sponsored, graduate-level programme in tech entrepreneurship here before March 18, 2023.
  • Do you live in Nigeria and work with a local or foreign company? Whether it's remotely, on-site, hybrid, full-time, part-time or as a freelancer, @TheIntelpoint is trying to understand the Nigerian workspace: how you work, and toxicity in the workspace among others. Please, fill out the questionnaire here.
  • Explore this website to find multiple job opportunities in Data that align with your preferences.
  • If you are a software engineer, creative designer, product manager, design researcher, or a techie looking for an internship role, please, check out this website.

Have a productive week!

Victoria Fakiya for Techpoint Africa.

She's autistic and interested in mental health and how technology can help Africans with mental disorders. Find her on Twitter @latoria_ria.
She's autistic and interested in mental health and how technology can help Africans with mental disorders. Find her on Twitter @latoria_ria.
She's autistic and interested in mental health and how technology can help Africans with mental disorders. Find her on Twitter @latoria_ria.

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