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Digital identity in Africa this week: fluctuating govt spending and biometric travel


Governments across Africa are spending more on digital ID and biometrics, including new digital service centers this week in Nigeria and e-passport centers in Kenya, but some budgets are being cut. Also in Kenya, the department in charge of the Huduma Namba ID scheme is having its financing cut for the next financial period. As well as new e-passport centers for Kenyans at home and abroad, Egyptians travelling to Mecca are having their biometrics captured for visas.

Ghana: Biometric voter registration exercise suspended then postponed

Ghana’s electoral commission has rescheduled its limited biometric voter registration exercise which will now run from June 17 to July 7 (rather than June 7 to July 27) according to the Ghana News Agency after the exercise had previously been suspended indefinitely due to a pending a court injunction. The injunction was dismissed according to a statement from the commission’s chairperson, Jean Mensa.

The registration is arranged ahead of December’s referendum on Metropolitan Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) and the District Level Elections (DLEs). It is to cover all district offices and 1,573 selected electoral areas across Ghana which will use biometric verification kits and cover around a quarter of all electoral areas.

The commission has pledged significant voter education and media outreach ahead of the votes. The commission’s statement also noted that people without the necessary documentation to register may present themselves with two registered voters who can serve as guarantors.

Nigeria: Rural digital service centers and extended biometrics

Nigeria’s federal government is planning to open digital service centers in rural areas, with access via individuals’ National Identity Number, in a way that would resemble India’s Aadhaar system, according to The Punch.

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was represented by Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu, a special advisor to the president, at the TechMoney Africa event in Lagos, who passed on the VP’s vision of the service centers: “The Nigerian Government is contemplating the introduction of digital service centres in rural communities which will serve as the modern-day equivalent of the village letter writer. A lot of this would depend on accurate data the starting point of which is to give every Nigerian a digital ID in the form of the National Identity Number somewhat similar to the Aadhaar programme in India.”

Nigeria is moving towards a single, centralized National Citizens Database bringing together various databases for SIM card registrations and driving licences to be managed by the National Identity Management Commission which issues the National Identity Numbers.

Biometric capture will be increased in Nigeria from five to ten fingerprints for the national database in a new federal biometric capture exercise, according to The Guardian.

Kenya: Huduma Namba funding cut, new e-passport centers to open

The National Integrated Information Management System (NIIMS), the department that runs the controversial national ID scheme, Huduma Namba, will see a Sh577 million (USD$5.7m) budget cut as part of the 2019-2020 financial plan, reports The Standard.

According to The Standard, “The deductions come amid concern over failure by State departments to complete public projects already funded and make prompt payments to suppliers.”

The Interior Ministry will face a Sh1.2 billion ($11.8m) cut to its surveillance schemes. However, an additional Sh300m ($3m) will be allocated to the Department of Immigration for the digitization of records, and Sh100m ($1m) for the digitization of births and deaths records, which could help people collate the documents needed in order to apply for a Huduma Namba.

The ID numbers generated by the Huduma Namba registration exercise will start being released in around a month, the Information Communications and Technology (ICT) Cabinet Secretary, Joe Mucheru said, speaking at Nairobi Innovation Week, according to Kenya’s KBC news channel. The release will be followed by the issuance of electronic cards.

Kenya is also opening four new immigration centers domestically to speed up the issuance of e-passports, plus six centers abroad to service the diaspora including London, Dubai and Johannesburg, according to TechWeez.

Kenya’s old-style passports will be phased out by the immigration department from September, according to KBC news.

Egypt: Pilgrims undergo biometric capture for Hajj visas

Egyptian pilgrims are undergoing biometric capture for the second year running to apply for visas to Saudi Arabi for the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage in August, the Ahram reports.

State-sponsored pilgrims must undergo fingerprint and iris scanning to apply and Egyptian authorities have stated the biometric data is used to check on the amenities provided by travel companies which handle the trips.

Meanwhile biometrics prevented travel when South Africa’s immigration office had a systems failure which affected the biometric processing of arrivals and departures at Beitbridge, Zimbabwe, The Standard reports.

Scores of travelers were affected at the border town, including shoppers and hearse bearers. The backlog was subsequently cleared.

Zambia: Biometric SIM card registration in 2020

Zambia’s Information and Communications Technology Authority has stated that mobile operators must bring in biometric registration of SIM cards by January 1, 2020, according to News Ghana.

This will follow the requirement to bring in live facial photo capture in store for new and replacement SIMs by August 31, according to The Mast. Any SIMs that are not linked to a complete ID number must be deactivated by network operators by June 30.

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