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Biometrics and digital ID across Africa this week: biometric influencers in Tanzania, a ‘techno-political nightmare’ in Nigeria

Biometrics and digital ID across Africa this week: biometric influencers in Tanzania, a ‘techno-political nightmare’ in Nigeria

Biometrics and digital ID are becoming firmly embedded in everyday life in many parts of Africa. 150 social media influencers in Tanzania are now tasked to promote biometric SIM card registration, and the sign-up efforts continue in Ghana and Nigeria. Biometrics are perhaps now so common that biometric company contracts make good targets for money laundering, as is alleged to have happened in Nigeria.

Tanzania: Govt creates influencer campaign to boost biometric SIM registrations

The latest results for biometric SIM registration show that 18.8 million of 28.7 million SIM cards have been registered biometrically by subscribers. The deadline is December 31, but the government has already said that users will no longer have their phones cut off after this date. The government is now trying a different approach to persuade people to link themselves to their phone numbers: social media stars.

150 of Tanzania’s top social media personalities have been drafted in to help the cause, according to The Daily News.

Between them they have over 20 million fans and 2 million daily visits to their accounts. They are tasked with creating awareness of the importance of biometric SIM card registration.

Malawi: Multiple attempts to hack Electoral Commission, ‘ghost user’ unmasked

Seven months since Malawi’s still-disputed May 21 biometric general election, and two months into a case at the Constitutional Court trying to ascertain what happened, the director of ICT at the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) told the court that there had been many attempts to hack the results management system, reports the Nyasa Times.

MEC ICT director Muhabi Chisi explained how none of the hacks, from around the world, had been successful and that the biometric kits were configured only to work in the constituencies they were destined for. Via a simulation of the results management system, Chisi also attempted to explain how his team had identified a ‘ghost user’ who had apparently tried to enter fraudulent results into the system.

After the election the opposition candidates cried foul when the incumbent, Peter Mutharika, was re-elected. After a partial recount, Mutharika was sworn in yet the case continues.

Nigeria: N300M biometric contracts involved in alleged N2B corruption

Witnesses have said biometrics contracts were part of the former Head of the Civil Service’s alleged corruption practices at a trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja, reports The Premium Times.

Steve Oronsanye is accused alongside two others in a 49-count charge of money laundering estimated to be worth N2 billion (US$5.5 million) of diverted public funds and involving biometric contract scams. Sums of N14 million and N720 million ($39,000 and $2 million) were laundered for biometric enrollment contracts. The case has been adjourned until 27 January 2020.

Côte d’Ivoire: President kicks off new biometric ID card registration

Côte d’Ivoire launched its new biometric ID scheme on December 11 and President Alassane Ouattara was first in line to have his biometrics captured and card issued, reports Koaci.

The Registre National des Personnes Physiques (RNPP) will generate a unique identity number for all registrants and a smartcard.

At a ceremony attended by Semlex staff, the company which controversially won the contract, the president had his biometrics captured and the pilot project was launched. It will last for 15 days from December 23, with 100 biometric capture kits will be deployed across the country. When the full project launches on January 2 2020, 2,500 kits will be deployed. According to the report, agents will register 45 people per kit per day and the ID cards will be ready 45 days later.

ID is a contentious issue in Côte d’Ivoire and will be a particularly sensitive issue in 2020 as the country prepares for its October presidential election.

According to a recent report by UNICEF, 28 percent of children under five have not had their births registered although a new scheme to allow registration in hospitals is improving the situation.

Africa: Smile Identity invests $4M in first three years, specializes in facial recognition for darker skin tones

The startup Smile Identity has invested $4 million in a platform for facial recognition and ID validation for over 200 million people in Africa.

The company specializes in facial recognition for people with darker skin tones and has integrations with the ID authorities of Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania. Its software operates on mobile phones and integrates with fintech providers. For example, Cellulant’s Tingg app uses Smile Identity to verify identities to issue Kenyans with virtual Mastercards.


Nigeria: Tertsea Ikyoive on the ‘nightmare of a techno-political society’

Tertsea Ikyoive, post-doctoral research fellow in cultural studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, claims Nigeria’s adoption of the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS) with its biometric capturing exercise proves how slowly Nigeria is moving. Writing in the Daily Post, he says, “(t)o accept technology and refuse to utilise its levels of proficiency in a highly populated country like Nigeria is to subject the people and the system under pressure, perpetual stress and dysfunction”.

Nigeria: DG of National Identity Management Commission warns ID scheme will fail without strong political will

Aliyu Aziz, director general of the NIMC has spoken out to say that funding and strong political will are necessary for the national ID system to succeed and has released a paper entitled “Importance of National Identity to Nation Building,” according to The Vanguard.

Ghana: Dissenting views against 2020 election biometric voter decision

Five political parties walked out of a meeting with Ghana’s electoral commission, apparently feeling hoodwinked into attending what became a demonstration of software for a new biometric register, to which the parties are opposed, reports Starr FM.

The parties are against the electoral commission’s decision that only biometrically registered voters will be allowed to cast a ballot in the 2020 elections, potentially disenfranchising many voters, possibly the majority, according to some.

The electoral commission has since said it is still open to meeting with the parties. Over 10 million voters are thought to be still be unregistered.

News in Brief & Updates

In brief – Tanzania: Tanzanians holding the old style, non-biometric East African Community passports will still be allowed to apply for Schengen visas after changes in February 2020, unlike citizens of other East African Community countries such as Kenya.

Link – UN SDG Update: Our coverage of the latest UNICEF study into birth registration worldwide, a key element of Sustainable Development Goal 16.9. The global rate has improved, but rates in Sub-Saharan countries are still extremely low. For example in Ethiopia only 3 percent of births are registered.

In brief – Ghana: GhanaCard registration begins in the Ashanti Region until January 8 2020. 15,000 registration officers hope to register 2.8 million people across 833 registration centers.

Link – Kenya: We take a closer look at digital ID in developing countries and in particular the project in Kenya to track people living with HIV via iris scanning.

Update – Ghana: Reports indicate that not only will pensioners who do not undergo biometric verification by the end of January 2020 have their payments stopped, but their names will be deleted from the pensioner roll.

Link – Nigeria: Our coverage of ZKTeco’s plans to establish a regional biometrics hub for Sub-Saharan Africa in Nigeria.

Link – Africa: Our coverage of BIO-key’s strategy to approach Africa on a country by country basis.

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