Cameroon bans Starlink imports ahead of voluntary shutdown

Cameroon bans Starlink imports ahead of voluntary shutdown

Cameroon authorities have reportedly banned imports of Starlink kits and are confiscating them at the border, even though SpaceX plans to stop service availability in the country this week.

According to a report from ITWeb Africa on Friday, the move is related to government claims that the LEO satellite operator – which does not yet have a licence to operate in Cameroon – poses a potential threat to both national security and fair competition in the telecoms sector.

A statement from Cameroon Customs Director General Fongod Edwin Nuvaga said Starlink technology was a national security threat because its lack of a licence means that it isn’t subject to oversight by the Telecommunications Regulatory Board.

According to media reports, Cameroon’s minister of posts and telecommunications, Minette Libom Li Likeng, made similar comments earlier in April. Libom Li Likeng also said that Starlink’s presence in the market would threaten state telco and ISP Camtel by essentially providing better service.

Fongod said that the customs department will continue to seize Starlink kits until it receives a licence to operate in Cameroon.

Ironically, earlier this month, Starlink said in a statement that starting on April 30, it would disable roaming to countries where it has not yet secured a licence, including Cameroon.

That announcement followed a report in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month that Starlink kits are finding their way into the hands of Russian soldiers in Ukraine (which Reuters also reported in February) and paramilitary forces in Sudan via the black market.

Neither SpaceX nor Starlink has officially acknowledged that report. But in a growing number of countries where Starlink isn’t licenced to operate, some users have been working around that by purchasing the service in countries where Starlink is available and using its roaming feature to access the service at home.

Cameroon joins a growing list of countries that are banning Starlink kit imports. Starlink has also been banned in other countries across Africa, including Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Senegal, Mali and Sudan, according to Ecofin Agency.

That said, the recent fiasco over subsea cable cuts causing internet outages across Africa over the last couple of months has shed light on the benefits of satellite-based options. In March, shortly after four subsea cables were severed off the coast of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana – which banned sales of Starlink kits last year – said it planned to issue a licence to Starlink

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