Digital ID in Africa this week: Huduma Namba to become virtually compulsory, Ghana gets PKI, Liberia runs out of biometric passports

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It’s been two steps forward, one step back for biometrics in Africa this week. Liberia has issued a cancellation notice to the Ghanaian printers of its passports, while in Ghana itself, a $4 million PKI scheme has been announced to improve digital payments at home and abroad. Kenyans will have no practical choice but to sign up for Huduma Numba and a scheme to get missing documentation could ease registration. Niger launches another biometrics project which will require all drivers to head to the capital and telcos in Rwanda await information on how to implement biometric verification of SIM card registration as fraudsters target weaknesses.

Kenya: Huduma Namba registration could become compulsory

Kenya’s controversial ‘single source of truth’ Huduma Namba ID system could be made virtually compulsory by December, according to The Nairobi News.

The Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matainag’i has proposed a bill which would require Kenyans to register with the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) in order to be able to access healthcare, register to have their house connected to electricity, get a driving license, register a SIM, pay taxes, register a marriage or enroll in a public education facility.

The NIIMS database will be held in Kenya and its data protected by a data protection officer to be appointed.

The Nairobi News also reports on a Rapid Registration Initiative for Kenyans to get missing birth certificates and other forms of ID. These documents are required for Huduma Namba sign up for which a second round of registration is planned, though no date has yet been given.

Ghana: Comms Minister announces $4M PKI facility

Ghana is establishing a Public Key Infrastructure Information Communication Technology facility to protect electronic transactions, according to The Ghanaian Times.

The $4 million project, to be hosted by the National Information Technology Agency, will bring together the judiciary, Ministries of Finance and Communication, and the National Health Insurance department.

The Minister of Communications said that the scheme will bring an additional layer of authentication for digital infrastructure and payments, and that Fintechs and software developers had long been calling for such a KPI. The infrastructure should also facilitate cross-border digital payments.

Liberia: Government hands Ghana printers cancellation notice for biometric passport deal

Liberia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs intends to cancel an $11.5 million contract with Ghana’s Buck Press Limited for failing to honor elements of the deal, reports The Front Page Africa which claims to have seen the cancellation notice.

According to the report, Liberia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not have enough passports to hand, and accuses Buck Press of failing to make passports available to its missions overseas. German company OeSD has been brought in to provide ‘emergency quantities’ of passports for Liberia. The country currently has fewer than 20 ordinary passports available.

Payments to Buck Press have been suspended and a meeting is planned for all parties in Monrovia on July 29.

Rwanda: SIM registration flaws open door to fraud

Poor ID registration for SIMs could be leaving subscribers vulnerable to fraud, reports The New Times. The paper’s investigations found that SIM sellers’ lack of diligence in checking the ID of someone wanting a new number could allow them to take an existing subscriber’s number.

A representative of mobile network MTN told the paper that they are hoping to implement biometric checking of ID this year for changing numbers and initial registration.

Airtel Rwanda also told the paper it plans to introduce biometric checking, and is awaiting approval from the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA). RURA passed a law in 2017 requiring ID registration for SIMs and is considering how to incorporate biometric verification in the process, according to the report.

South Africa: automated biometric ID system rollout to be accelerated

The South African Department of Home affairs hopes to tackle ID theft and duplication issues sooner by speeding up the rollout of its automated biometric identification system (ABIS), reports IT Web.

Speaking on the radio, the Home Affair’s acting director general Thulani Mavuso said, “We created a commercial interface, and are already working with the banks, whereby they are able to use your fingerprints and the system pulls out a photo to confirm you are the same person.” The system will create a single source of ID for government and commercial use.

The delayed ABIS is to replace the manual Home Affairs National Identity System (HANIS). The two will run in parallel until the ABIS is fully operational in March 2021.

Niger: Biometric driving licenses announced

Niger’s Ministry for Transport has announced biometric driving licenses as part of efforts to ‘clean up road transport’ in the country, the news agency Ecofin reports.

Drivers must obtain the new licenses within the next 12 months from a national processing center in the capital Niamey for a fee of 12,000 FCFA (US$20) or face penalties. Niger is undergoing several biometric projects such as creating a civil servant registry to weed out ghost workers.

Ghana: new biometric voter register for 2020

Ghana’s Electoral Commission says it will compile a new voter register for the 2020 presidential elections as the current biometric kits are outdated, reports The Daily Graphic.

According to the Graphic, the commission’s director of electoral services, Dr. Serebour Quaicoe, said on Radio Ghana: “The current machines that we are using is outdated, the producers are no more producing it, so getting parts to service them [such as] cartridges, toners is a problem… So the commission has taken a decision, but we are yet to come out publicly, but we intend compiling a new register for 2020.”

The current machines and register will be used for the upcoming local elections and referendum, then a new register will be compiled. Talk of a new register for the November or December 2020 election began in March 2019 and a recent census and biometric exercises could affect constituency makeup.

Dr. Quaicoe also announced that 1.2 million people had been registered in the latest exercise, with 8,500 cases challenged.

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