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The week in Africa biometrics and digital ID: SDG progress, returning ghost workers and a pensioner deadline

The week in Africa biometrics and digital ID: SDG progress, returning ghost workers and a pensioner deadline

A theme emerging this week is a pan-African perspective for digital ID schemes across the continent. Progress is being made toward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal to provide legal identity to all by 2030, while the continent’s budding digital economy could flourish with digital ID in the form of users’ social media presence. Ghana has saved millions with its biometric pensioner verification, yet Kenya has found ghost workers clocking back in again.

Pan Africa: Sustainable Development Goal progress as digital civil registration accelerates

Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 for all to have a legal identity is accelerated due to biometric registration, according to case studies worldwide, including in Africa, reports SciDev.Net.

Around a billion people worldwide have no legal identity, half of whom are in Africa. Kenya and South Africa were praised for their efforts to increase birth registration to over 75 percent, noting how Kenya introduced the option to register a child when going in for immunizations. Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe were also singled out for their progress in creating integrated systems for civil registration, identity and vital statistics under a single national authority in each country.

Pan Africa: Social media as a digital identity

African Banker Magazine’s cover story explores the potential of mobile phone-powered fintech for Africa and considers digital ID as a key factor in the growth of the continent’s digital economy.

The article contemplates users’ online social media presence as another means of building a digital ID alongside traditional, formal schemes operated by the state. Just as U.S. border authorities request certain visa applicants’ social media credentials for evaluating approvals, users could gradually build a multi-faceted online presence as a form of identity for accessing certain online services.

As phones with more sophisticated features fall in price and data becomes cheaper (although Africa still has the least affordable internet in the world and it’s getting more expensive for some), more people are expected to move over to smartphones. Around 76 percent of the population has a cell phone, though only around a quarter of people are internet users, according to the article. Using an online presence as a form of ID therefore would not necessarily be any faster than government schemes coming into place.

Kenya: the return of the ghost workers and biometric insight

Ghost workers have found their way back into government jobs in Kenya after the previous success of biometrically busting 12,500 non-existent staff from payrolls back in 2014, according to The Daily Nation.

Weak payroll systems are being blamed for continuing to included staff who have left. Kenya’s Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) is recommending changes to the integrated payroll management system. Every public servant would be given a unique identifier as a method to reduce the risk of so as to eliminate the risk of overpayment or paying ghost workers.

Kenya has around 842,000 government employees now compared to 732,000 in 2014. Over half of Kenya’s tax revenues are spent on public servants’ wages, way above the government’s 35 percent ceiling.

Biometric vetting of public servants in the capital Nairobi has found no issues of ghost workers at City Hall, but has revealed other insights. According to another article in The Daily Nation, over half the staff are ‘old’ (over 50) and so due for retirement, and 19 of them are already over the retirement age of 60.

Ghana: February 2020 cut-off date for biometric pensioner verification

Any pensioners who have not gone through biometric capture and verification will be taken off the pension roll in Ghana in February 2020, according to Pulse.

“We would like to once again remind all our cherished pensioners who are yet to re-enrol biometrically to visit the nearest SSNIT Branch to do so, not later than January 31, 2020, to avoid been deactivated from the pension payroll,” the Pulse quotes Laurette Korkor Otchere, deputy director-general of Operations and Benefits of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).

6,268 ghost pensioners have already been removed via biometric verification, saving the Trust ₵63 million (US$11 million).

Recent regional pensioner schemes have trialed doorstep visits to pensioners to facilitate verification onto the new platform which has already saved tens of millions of cedis.

The Trust announced that it had collected pensions arrears from employers of 440 million cedis ($77 million) of which 209 million was through prosecution.

Senegal: Backlash over biometric driving license

Senegal’s new biometric driving license has attracted criticism for the amount of data held for each driver, and where that data is stored, reports local media such as Press Afrik.

As well as identifiers such as names and addresses, the permits register blood group, gender, fingerprints, facial scan and signature. The data is believed to be held overseas. Civil society groups have branded it costly, intrusive and dangerous, saying no other democracy in the world would hand over so much data about its citizens.

Drivers have to move to the new system by the end of the year.

Niger: Fraudulent biometric voter registration reported

Opposition party MNSD (National Movement for the Development of Society) has reported what it believes to be fraudulent biometric voter registration to the national electoral commission, reports RFI.

Voter registration is under way for both local elections on the 2020 presidential vote. MNSD claimed to have proof of fraud from various regions which it put in a letter to the electoral commission. It claims that non-Nigeriens were registered in the Agadez and Tillaberi regions without the proper documentation. The party does not go as far as to lay the blame with any individuals or bodies but believes it is an attempt to distort voter numbers.

Nigeria: Biometric capture to solve tricycle issues

The governor of Nigeria’s Borno state has denied rumors that the state is to ban tricycles, instead announcing that biometric capture including tricycle drivers will solve issues with protestors, reports PM News.

Governor Babagana Zulum denied that the ‘Keke napep’ tricycles would be banned from the state capital Maiduguri. It appears there will be a ban at just one roundabout in the city to which some are protesting.

Zulum went on to say: “This is because, on my assumption of office, I received reports from security agencies on the alleged unwholesome activities of tricycle operators in the state… We have to know everybody operating in the state, which means we will conduct biometric verifications to capture everybody as part of the effort to sanitise the system”.


South Africa: Human rights, fraud and single ID vs multiple IDs

One to watch: One of the Digital Identity Fellows for ID firm Yoti, Tshepo Magoma, is beginning his year-long study into digital ID in South Africa by questioning how the country’s ID impacts human rights.

Magoma lays out his approach in his first installment. He states that even since the introduction of SmartID Cards, there have been cases of identity fraud and that systems like this exclude certain groups. He will examine the issue of informed consent and anonymity in systems plus whether they do improve service and welfare provision.

The study will examine the consequences of schemes where there is a single ID card for all uses. Magoma will investigate whether a single identity document puts the bearer at a disadvantage as multiple IDs empower users to decide how they present themselves.

News in Brief & Updates

In brief – Ghana: Calls for data science in curricula to improve national development with support from the International Biometric Society.

Link – Morocco: Our coverage of Idemia supplying new biometric ID cards for online services.

In brief – Kenya/Schengen: All Kenyan passports except the new East African Community biometric e-passports will be rendered invalid as of March 1 2020. Therefore, as of December 1, only the biometric passports can be accepted for Schengen visa applications.

In brief – Nigeria: Head of the Nigeria Immigration Service claims country’s biometric passport is one of the best in the world and that Nigeria’s biometric data is monitored in real time, according to The Guardian.

In brief – Central African Republic: Over 300 requests for CAR biometric passports have been lodged among the diaspora in the U.S. since the scheme was announced a month ago.

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