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Spam Calls in the African Market:
How to Stop Them

by Metin Sezer

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

An everyday problem

"Have a look", Mr. Müller said, showing me his mobile: An impressively extensive list of blood-red phone numbers appeared one after another as he scrolled down with his index finger. Apparently, a lot of people were laser-focused on having a conversation with Müller, a thirtysomething German living in South Africa. They were spam callers pretending to be bank executives, he explained, and his not-picking-up attitude didn't seem to affect their determination to keep calling. He told me that he regularly blocks suspicious phone numbers, but they always seem to have a new number ready, usually with a slightly different ending but similar at the core. Looking at the long list, he said with a smirk: "And that's just today's calls".

Scams are on the rise

I met Müller in Cape Town, South Africa, while attending AfricaCom 2023. According to him, about 80% of the calls a typical user in the South-African market gets on any given day are from scammers and spam callers. A recently published report suggests that Müller's estimate is not too far off: South Africa ranks 9th in the "Top 20 Countries Affected by Spam Calls in 2021" list, with Brazil, Peru, India and Mexico leading the way. More than half of those calls come from financial-services companies, and more than 40% are from various sales agents. The remaining 6% are scammers. Mr. Müller says that there is currently only one solution in the South African market that works for him: "I turn my phone off as soon as I arrive home". During the trade show, I would find out that he is not the only one doing that.

With a little help from the CSPs

During the three days of AfricaCom, I heard similar stories over and over again. These involved different narrators from different African countries with different models of phones, but they were all afflicted with the same curse—a seemingly unstoppable inflow of spam calls. I also met with many communications service providers (CSPs), all of whom confirmed the story. In response, I shared one of our success stories—TalkTalk—with every single one of them.

A tried-and-true solution

TalkTalk is one of the big four CSPs in the United Kingdom, with more than 4 million subscribers. The company is the value-for-money provider in the British market. However, its customers were being pestered by scam callers pretending to be from TalkTalk or other technology companies and claiming that their companies were having issues with their systems. Most of the time, the scams ended up costing the victims huge sums of money. To help, ECT proposed that TalkTalk create a virtualized solution implemented within its existing IT infrastructure that would allow customers to weed out spam callers. The solution, which TalkTalk named CallSafe, is a competitive differentiator for the company. It is also a “sticky” solution that helps retain current customers, because it allows customers to create a whitelist of approved phone numbers. If another CSP were to offer a similar service, many of those customers would be reluctant to repeat that effort in order to switch providers. At the same time, the approach taken to implementing and operating CallSafe has meant that TalkTalk has been able to provide this service while reducing both capital and operational expenditures.

That last point takes me back to my conversation with Müller: Just before parting ways, I asked him one last question. Would he pay his CSP to get rid of spam callers? "Definitely I would", he said. After a brief pause, he added, "provided they charge an affordable price".

"I'm sure they can do that", I thought to myself.

Learn how ECT helped TalkTalk provide a successful anti-spam solution in the UK market.

Metin Sezer