Digital ID in Africa this week: biometric pay delays and World Bank support

Biometrics systems have moved far beyond centralized government schemes across Africa. This week we see the ramifications of smaller, localized or sector-specific biometric schemes, positive and negative. The World Bank has also approved a credit to the government of Kenya which in part will support biometric schemes, and Rwanda is to bring in e-passports.

Nigeria: biometrics to replace scratchcards for school exam takers

Nigeria’s National Examination Council (NECO) has bought 8,000 biometric kits at a cost of N500 million (US$1.4 million) to verify takers of the 2019 Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, according to The Guardian.

The procurement happened late last year, according to the council’s registrar, Abubakar Gana, to clamp down on the issue of impersonation, a problem that the country’s Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board has not totally eliminated via biometrics.

Gana also disclosed the purchase of 20 Toyota vans at a cost of N328 million ($912,000) to transport the kits around the country’s 10,000 exam centers, preventing the need to delay exams.

Students previously had to purchase scratchcards to obtain a reference number to sit the exams. Chairman Governing Board of NECO, Abubakar Sadiq, announced that they will now register online for a number to use to register when the biometric fingerprint kits will be driven around the country in advance of the exams, according to the Daily Post and then again to verify students on the day of the exam.

Students will then use a number given at registration to find out their results, according to the Daily Trust.

Gana said the council had already saved N2 billion ($5.6 million) by cutting costs and the new system would enable further savings.

Ghana: thousands of teachers facing biometric pay delay

Eight thousand new teachers have not been paid five months into the job due to delays in having their biometrics captured by the Ghana Education Service, as reported by ASEMPA News.

The teachers have only passed through the first step of form filling and are awaiting biometric capture. They will then be issued with biometric cards by the education service, which are needed for their salaries to be paid.

Some teachers in the Upper West Region have ‘besieged’ the regional officiate of the Ghana Education Service, according to the article. The Education Ministry is working with the service to overcome the issues as it is concerned that unpaid teachers may be unable to afford even to travel to their schools.

Nigeria: biometric complaint triggers surprise for Borno State

Human oversight of a biometric system led to a surprise discovery for a new state governor in Nigeria who is to reprimand 99.97 percent of his staff.

The day after being sworn in as governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum paid an early-morning visit to the civil service complex Maiduguri to check up on the work ethic of the 12,000 staff there. At 8:30am there were just 4 staff there, who frantically called colleagues in to be present for the unannounced inspection tour. Yet by 9:40am there were still only 130 staff, according to Premium Times.

Zulum’s visit was prompted by a meeting with the Nigeria Labour Congress on his first day in office, who had come to complain about staff pay delays since a biometric staff monitoring system had been brought in by his predecessor. The NLC also demanded other benefits.

The report quotes Zulum as saying, “Yesterday, the office of the biometric service was called and a lot of things was said about it, but I am saying that I’m not coming to completely withdraw the biometric exercise and I commend the effort of my predecessor for initiating the biometric exercise.”

He will question or issue warnings to all those not present during his old-fashioned inspection.

Kenya: World Bank approves $750M credit to gov reform including biometrics

The World Bank Board of Directors approved a $750 million International Development Association (IDA) credit to support the Kenya government’s reforms focused on the “Big Four”: agriculture, affordable housing, universal health coverage and manufacturing, with biometrics a key part of agricultural reform, according to a World Bank Group release.

The Kenya Inclusive Growth and Fiscal Management Development Policy Financing facility will cover agricultural reform. This will include attempts at better targeting of subsidies for inputs to reach the intended beneficiaries via e-vouchers and biometric digital identification.

The statement includes support for Kenya’s controversial national ID scheme: “By supporting the advancement of digitization through the creation of the national digital ID and pushing for access of internet services to all Kenyans, the facility will enhance service delivery by the government to its citizens, and reduce the need for face-to-face interactions and corruption opportunities”.

Rwanda: Passport prices to increase for biometric passports

Rwanda will switch to issuing biometric ePassports from July, with prices rising from Frw50,000 (US$55) to Frw75,000 ($85), according to the Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration revealed Friday as reported by the Journal du Cameroun.

The new passports will contain chips which hold the passport data plus biometric identifiers. The cost of children’s passports will fall, from $55 to $30.

Meanwhile, the UN has decorated female Rwandan peacekeepers in South Soudan with the UN Service Medal of Honor, in part for their special missions including biometric registration of refugees, according to the New Times.

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