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Digital ID in Africa this week: biometrics for ECOWAS free movement, widespread passport reform



Neighbors Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire have come to the fore this week. The two members of the Economic Community of West African States have worked together and apart on reinforcing the principles of the free movement of goods and people between member states, providing training to border staff on the protocols and ID checking. Ghana and Angola reform their passport provision and Nigeria opens two National Identity Number application centers in the UK with two more in Germany opening on August 12. Facebook has identified hundreds of fake accounts and pages with millions of followers in Africa and the Middle East, and African artists struggle to travel abroad when their home countries have no biometrics capture facilities.

Angola: Parliament approves issuance of biometric passports

Angola’s parliament has voted through changes to the country’s passport provision including the introduction of biometric passports, reports Agência Angola Press.

The new passports will be 48 pages, and comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards with radiofrequency and a chip containing biometric data.

Prices will increase substantially according to the report, with ordinary passports going from AKZ3,000 to AKZ35,000 (US$8.40 to $97.60). The government hopes for improved authentication and reduced fraud.

Ghana: Awareness raising campaign on ECOWAS card and free movement

Ghana has held a two-day awareness raising program on the protocol for the free movement of people throughout the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the role of the ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card within that protocol, the Ghana News Agency reports.

The report states Foreign Affairs Minister Shirley Ayorkore Botchwey said at the opening that the colonial demarcation of borders and enforced rules and regulations by national institutions had hindered the free movement of people in the region with an impact on economic activities. This had led to poverty and delayed development, which regional leaders had tried to address with the establishment of ECOWAS in 1975. Yet more needs to be done to educate people on the rights and principles that the ECOWAS agreements brought, and the protocols need to be enhanced.

The Ministry announced that the National Identity Authority had issued 560,000 ECOWAS cards in 2018 and that the usage would be ‘operationalized’ by March 2020. Ghana was recently praised by ECOWAS for its efforts in issuing ECOWAS-standard ID cards.

Ghana/Côte d’Ivoire: Border staff summoned for ECOWAS training

Ghanaian and Ivorian border staff were gathered in the Ghanaian town of Elubou on the frontier with Côte d’Ivoire for advocacy and training on the rights to free movement between ECOWAS member states, Akody reports.

Violence and corruption at border crossing points has been making life a misery for travelers and traders. Staff were trained on the document reading, including biometric ID, and the protocols of ECOWAS.

Meanwhile in Abidjan, the commercial capital of Côte d’Ivoire, further training workshops on the free movements of goods and people were given to logistics workers, traders and security personnel, reports Fraternité Matin.

Ghana: new passport format, mobile registration, more passport centers, possible chips

Ghana is rapidly updating its passport services at home and abroad, according reports from the Ghana News Agency.

Minister Botchwey has announced a series of updates including a new 48-page biometric passport, online applications for more passport centers, and further mobile application rollout for Ghanaian missions abroad already issuing biometric passports.

“The ministry has started discussions aimed at introducing chip embedded passports to keep up the pace of technological advancement and enhance the security of Ghanaian passports,” Botchwey is quoted as saying at a press conference.

Bothchwey praised the support of the World Bank for the Passport Office to help buy equipment including fingerprint scanners and signature pads.

Three new passport centers will open in the Upper East, Upper West and Central Regions and the central passport office in Accra will also be relocated.

Chad: biometric cards for all BAC exam candidates

Candidates taking the BAC exams, the French baccalauréat high school graduation exams, in Chad are required to use a biometric card to sit the test, reports France Info Afrique.

The card stores the data of six fingerprints and has been introduced as re-sits are common which had led to increasing levels of exam fraud. Neighboring Nigeria has found that such a system is not without issue.

Cote d’Ivoire: President says no fraud in 2020 elections ‘because of biometric cards’

In a televised 50-minute interview on the eve of Côte d’Ivoire’s Independence Day, President Alassane Ouattara declared that thanks to “the biometric system for identity cards, there will be no fraud” in the 2020 presidential election, as broadcast by RTI.

Three thousand people were killed in the post-electoral violence that followed the 2010 presidential election which took place after biometric cards were introduced in 2009. This first batch of cards has technically expired, but the 5,000 FCFA replacement fee ($8.54) has caused outrage in Côte d’Ivoire after the controversial appointment of Semlex and the fact that they are seen as a right as they are essential for accessing services and voting.

Under pressure, the government has extended the validity until the end of 2019. It is not clear if this will leave enough time for people to apply and receive new cards and register to vote.

Canada/Africa: Lack of biometric capture facilities hampers travel

African artists have struggled to travel to Canada for a festival as they do not have appropriate biometric capture facilities in their home countries required for processing visas, Le Devoir reports.

Artists from countries such as Benin invited to perform at the Festival TransAmériques, have to travel 400km to Ghana to have their biometrics captured. Added to the complexities of passport applications and the rest of the visa procedures, some artists are simply unable to travel to Canada.

North & East Africa: Facebook takes down pages, groups based on fake accounts

Facebook has shut accounts and groups across the Middle East and North and East Africa after discovering they were based on compromised and fake accounts and impersonations of public personalities with activity linked to marketing firms in Egypt and the UAE, according to a statement issued by Facebook.

The platform has taken down 259 accounts, 102 Pages, five Groups, four Events and 17 Instagram accounts for ‘inauthentic behavior’ originating in the UAE and Egypt, focusing on Libya, Sudan, Comoros, Qatar, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Morocco. Links to two marketing firms were found: New Waves in Egypt, Newave in the UAE.

The admins posted on a wide range of subjects but also “topics including alleged support of terrorist groups by Qatar and Turkey, Iran’s activity in Yemen, the conflict in Libya, successes of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and independence for Somaliland”.

Almost 14 million accounts followed ‘one or more of these Pages’, at least one Group had about 9,000 members and around 65,000 accounts followed at least one of the Instagram accounts. The fraudulent accounts and groups were also associated with $167,000 in spending on Facebook ads.

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