Biometrics and digital ID in Africa this week: Ghana demonstrations, Tanzania SIM registration deadline
Biometrics are at the core of an issue leading opposition parties in Ghana to call for demonstrations and mass picketing across the country. They are vehemently opposed to plans to create a new biometric voter management system. In nearby Nigeria, it’s a case of two steps forward after visa-on-arrival for all Africans is launched but high fees for compulsory biometric capture on arrival for first-time visitors is reintroduced. Yet seamless passenger transport in Africa is still envisaged by a French IT supplier.
And Magdi Amin of the Omidyar Network, which is an investor and promoter of ‘Good ID’ in Africa, is heading to Sudan for an assignment with Ministry of Finance where he will focus, among other things, on digital ID.
Heading to Sudan to start a new assignment with Ministry of Finance, focusing on economic reform: financial sector, #digitalidentity /economy, and the private sector. Will continue to push for technology and investment that empowers people and connects Africans to opportunity.
— Magdi M. Amin (@Magdi_Amin) January 8, 2020
Nigeria: Visa on arrival for all Africans begins, $90 biometric capture returns
Nigeria’s borders are once again in the news. This time not for closures with neighboring Benin, but for the introduction of visa-on-arrival for African nationals and the contradictory re-introduction of a $90 biometric capture fee.
The Federal Government has gone against the Senate to bring in the visa-on-arrival for all Africans, reports The Punch. The policy began on January 1, despite legislative issues with the Senate and security concerns about who was entering the country once visitors no longer had to apply for a visa in advance. President Buhari had announced the move in 2018 to improve freedom of movement across the continent.
Meanwhile, the $90 fee for initial biometric capture on arrival is being reintroduced, according to Sahara Reporters, without announcement or warning to incoming passengers. The fee had been suspended 18 months earlier and is charged on top of visa fees and alongside a further $20 administration fee. Its initial introduction in June 2018 led to chaos at Lagos airport. It also appears that those who require no visa at all, such as ECOWAS citizens, may still have to pay for biometric registration.
Further announcements state that passengers have to present themselves at border control on exiting the country at least 2 hours before their flights.
Tanzania: National ID agency ordered to operate 16 hours a day to accelerate registration
With the already extended January 20 deadline looming for registering SIM cards with a biometric ID, Tanzania‘s Home Affairs department has instructed the National Identification Authority (NIDA) to work 16 hours a day to speed up the issuance of ID, reports The Daily.
Shifts have doubled from eight to 16 hours due to staff shortages, said the Home Affaris Deputy Minister, Hamad Masauni, who visited NIDA offices. The director general of NIDA said his own office was operating 24 hours a day and working weekends.
Efforts have been hampered with reports of stolen biometric registration equipment. Cameras and computers belonging to NIDA were reportedly stolen in the northern district of Arumeru in the Arusha region.
Ghana: Parties announce demonstrations over proposed new biometric voter roll, government says Ghana Card to replace voter ID
The storm around the proposed creation of a new biometric electoral roll shows no sign of dissipating as the presidential election is now less than a year away. Opposition parties have formed the Inter-Party Resistance Against the New Voter Register (IPRAN) and have called for a series of demonstrations across Ghana from 11-28 January, reports Ghana Web. They also intend to run ‘mass picketing’ activities nationwide.
Their grievances are not just the $147M cost of the project, but the lack of transparency and concerns over the addition of facial recognition, citing reports of the poor accuracy of the proposed systems when analysing black faces.
This comes as the vice president Dr Mahamude Bawumia spoke at a convention saying that the biometric Ghana Card will replace voter ID, eliminating the argument over the use of a voter register, reports Modern Ghana.
Dr Bawumia also stated that the National Identification database will save the nation money once it is completed:
“One of the beautiful things about the National ID card registration is that after it is done this year, we will no longer have any argument about the voters’ register anymore because the National ID will be the voters’ register and nobody will go and do voters’ registration because when it is time for voting, EC will just extract the data of anybody who is above 18 from the national ID database. So it will save us money in these registrations which are expensive. But, for us, this is the last time we going to get involved in the election registration.”
Kenya: Journalists to need biometric press cards
Journalists working in Kenya will have to apply for new smartcard press accreditation and undergo biometric capture for the first time, according to Nairobi News. The new Smart Press Card issued by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) is intended to increase the security of the cards and holder verification.
Even student journalists will be required to register for the cards which are valid for a calendar year, though will have reduced fees of Sh300 ($3), compared to Sh2,000 for local journalists and Sh5,000-10,000 for foreign reporters depending on length of stay.
Africa: Digital and biometric technology ‘leapfrogging’ in Africa for seamless travel and strong passenger growth
“Expect big growth in passenger terms in Africa and one of key requirements to accommodate this growth would be the need for more automation at the airports and in passenger processing to absorb the load. A lot of collaboration between stakeholders would also be required,” Sébastien Fabre, vice president of the Airline & Airport Portfolio at France’s Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques (SITA), an IT provider to the aviation industry, told Fin24.
Fabre believes with the rapid adoption of mobile technologies, Africa could ‘leapfrog’ other parts of the world to attain seamless passenger travel.
News in Brief
In brief – Namibia: Progress towards UN SDGs for identity has been recorded in Namibia, also including positive public feedback on new systems.
In brief – Nigeria: A human rights lawyer is pressing for a declaration of assets from president Buhari, claiming the BVN system Buhari introduced applies to him too.
Link – Africa: Our coverage of former Laxton exec Paul Kennedy moving to Suprema ID to be the sales representative for Africa.
Link – Africa: Our coverage of the almost total representation of all African nations at 2020’s ID4Africa summit in Morocco.