Absurd SMS texts in Ethiopia

Abdulaziz Yesuf
3 min readDec 25, 2020


“ቤቶ ቁጭ ብለው FACEBOOK በመጠቀም ብቻ እንዴት ብር ማግኘት እንደሚችሉ ለማወቅ OK ብለው በነፃ ይላኩ” Wait… what?

Annoying short SMS texts

Sorry for the weird title. But, what in the world are we getting through our phones these days? Is this even possible? Can I make money using Facebook? I almost sent “ok” to this one. To get to the point, how a big corporation like Ethio Telecom can approve a message this solicited and probably a lie be sent to its customers is baffling to me. This article is not going to be all about this specific text, but about the texts that are making our phones buzz without any good reason. To give some background, an SMS shortcode is a 4 or 5 digit phone number that is used by businesses to send and receive text messages at scale.

Ethio Telecom has been providing this service to different businesses for years although it had paused the service around 2018 due to compliance issues with the registered businesses. This service was resumed in late 2018. According to Addis Fortune, there are about 110 organizations engaged with this business. Now what we have to understand is, these texts are common all around the world among different telecom service providers. Although it is hard to find a general compliance policy that governs this service, there is a handbook known as the “CTIA Short Code Monitoring Program” that outlines how these businesses should operate. Although this handbook mentions a lot of carriers and telecom service providers as its members, Ethio Telecom is not on this list. But let’s use this handbook as a reference to measure how these absurd texts we receive every day can be considered fair.

Typing a text

One of the first things this handbook mentions in it’s “CHOICE AND CONSENT” section is that “Unsolicited messages may not be transmitted using shortcodes”. It defines “Unsolicited messages” as “Messages delivered without prior express consent from the user or account holder, and Messages sent after a user has opted out’”. I don’t remember ever opting into these services and yet I receive a few texts from each of them every week. Let’s leave the handbook alone for a second, and think about how it can be fair that we receive texts every day from numbers we have never seen before?. Especially for something we purchase to get services.

Getting back to the handbook the other thing it mentions is the kind of these content these texts should contain. Under the “MARKETING CONTEXT” section the handbook mentions “No component of program advertising or messaging may be deceptive about the underlying program’s functionality, features, or content”. Most of the texts we receive are very ambiguous to justify these requirements. I am going to leave this to your judgment since I am not a frequent user of these services. Don’t get me wrong, shortcodes can be used for a good cause. Mekedonia and the GERD shortcode numbers are good examples of positive ways this service can be used. I believe these other shortcode businesses are also trying to make money by providing somewhat positive services. But as a customer of Ethio Telecom, I believe there should be some kind of customer protection that prevents these businesses from sending these trying texts. Until Ethio Telecom solves this issue that is driving most of us crazy, here are some apps to block some of these shortcode texts.

Truecaller, Key messages, SpamHound

Originally posted at Loline Mag



Abdulaziz Yesuf

A web and app developer based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I work with technologies like VueJs, Laravel, and ExpressJs. Website: https://abdulazizy.tech/