Risks of Physical SIM Cards in Kenya: Why eSIMs from Safaricom, Airtel, and Jamii Telkom Are a Safer Choice

eSIM stands for embedded SIM. It is the one that is already integrated into your mobile phone, tablet, or device, at least for those of us with current mobile devices. Unlike traditional SIM Cards, here the card is digitized, meaning it is not in a physical mode. eSIM uses the device’s hardware to save information and does not require a physical card to be inserted into smartphone. For those who’ve known or interacted with me, can easily testify that I’m a sucker of eSims, I like the idea of not having to swap a SIM card whenever you change a device, simply scan a code and you’ll be on your way.

Comparing with the days of yore, mobile service providers have shifted from traditional physical sim cards to eSim, and here in Kenya is no exception. I wonder if they are doing enough to educate subscribers on all the benefits, they might be missing out for not having an eSim? One of those benefits is of course enhanced security that we are going to highlight here.

We’ve for the longest time relied on physical sim cards which pose quite a number of security challenges that should not be overlooked. Here In Kenya, we are lucky that major telecom providers such as Safaricom, Airtel, and Jamii Telkom are at the forefront of offering eSIM technology, which presents a more secure alternative to the traditional physical SIM card.

Quick Summary

  • Physical SIM Cards Pose Security Risks: Traditional SIM cards can be easily removed and misused if a phone is stolen.
  • eSIMs Provide Device Security: eSIMs offer enhanced security features by being tied to device security such as PINs and biometrics.
  • Telecom Providers in Kenya Support eSIMs: Safaricom, Airtel, and Jamii Telkom offer eSIM services, making them a secure option for Kenyan users.

Risks of Physical SIM Cards

While physical SIM cards have been a staple in mobile communications for decades, they come with certain risks:

  • Vulnerability to Theft: Physical SIM cards can be removed from a phone and inserted into another, giving thieves access to sensitive information such as contacts and mobile wallets.
  • Lack of Security: Most Kenyans do not use a SIM PIN, which leaves the SIM card, and consequently the data on it, unprotected.
  • Unauthorized Access: Once a SIM card is stolen, thieves can reset security pins and use credit balance for unauthorized calls and other activities.

Advantages of eSIMs

eSIMs, on the other hand, offer a secure and convenient alternative:

  • Tied to Device Security: eSIMs are tied to the security features of the device, such as biometric authentication and PINs, making them more secure.
  • Cannot Be Easily Removed: Since eSIMs are embedded within the phone, they are not easily removed and misused by thieves.
  • Ease of Activation and Switching: eSIMs allow for seamless activation and switching between networks without the need for a physical card.

Case Studies and Statistics

Several real-life incidents highlight the risks of using physical SIM cards in Kenya:

  • SIM Swap Fraud: Instances of SIM swap fraud have been reported here in Kenya with cases lodged where fraudsters gain unauthorized access to an individual’s mobile wallet by stealing the physical SIM card.
  • Phone Theft and Misuse: There have been numerous cases where stolen phones with physical SIM cards led to unauthorized usage, including making calls and sending texts on behalf of the victim. Unfortunately, in some instances even family members claim to be the victim where they successfully solicit for money.

Just a few days ago, I remembered a good friend of mine who lost her phone while boarding a matatu. Since she didn’t have a spare phone, there was no way she could reach her relatives and therefore she had to proceed to complete her cores before returning home. Unfortunately for her, the person who stole her phone managed to access contact on the phone saved with common names such as mom, dad and so forth and send them text messages alleging she had been arrested and they were the police. Un knowingly, they send money in what they believed to be saving their keen only later to learn the unfortunate circumstance.

Potential Impact

While the shift towards eSIM technology may take time and even face some expected skepticism, its potential impact on personal security and privacy is significant to say the least. We like the approach by telecom providers such as Safaricom, Airtel, and Jamii Telkom who are making strides in providing eSIM services, paving the way for safer and more secure mobile communication in Kenya. By adopting eSIMs, Kenyans can enjoy the benefits of technology while mitigating the risks associated with traditional physical SIM cards.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Parliamentarians Allocate NG-CDF Funds for ICT Hub Creation

Parliamentarians have allocated funds from the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) for the creation of ICT Hubs. In Kakamega, Member of Parliament for Teso...


How to Send “Please Call Me” Messages on Safaricom, Airtel & Telkom

Are you in a stuation where you need to get hold of someone very quickly but no airtime to make a call? All major...


Local Smartphone Assembly Soars with 268,000 Units Sold Since October

Since last October, 268,000 smartphones assembled locally have been purchased by Kenyan consumers. The consortium responsible for producing these devices has successfully sold 80%...