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Biometrics in Africa: digital ID for humanitarian responses in Ethiopia and registration priorities in Nigeria

Biometrics in Africa: digital ID for humanitarian responses in Ethiopia and registration priorities in Nigeria

The use of biometrics by electoral commissions is once again at the fore in digital ID news in Africa. The dispute continues over establishing an entirely new – and costly – biometric electoral roll in Ghana, and the opposition in the Republic of Congo is calling for a delay to the 2021 presidential election in part to allow more time to bring in biometric voting systems. In Ethiopia a pilot to establish traceable, digital identities for development and humanitarian assistance could help the country’s response to the estimated 6.5 million who will require food aid in 2020 and the UN will be reviewing Kenya’s human rights situation.

Ethiopia: Humanitarian response goes digital and biometric with WFP help

The government of Ethiopia intends to overhaul its response mechanism for humanitarian incidents, moving away from paper to digital and biometric and merging its approach to humanitarian and development programs, according to a note by the World Food Program.

Currently in a pilot stage, the fifth iteration of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) will require participating households to register digitally creating a secure, live database of need and assistance. Photos and all 10 fingerprints are taken from each participant and families are registered as households. The aim is to register 32,000 people in the 45-day project in Ethiopia’s Somali region which borders Somalia.

With predictions of up to 6.5 million Ethiopians needing emergency food assistance in 2020 because of issues such as drought and internal displacement, there is mounting pressure to improve responses despite recent progress made by the Ethiopian authorities.

The move aligns with a survey of aid organizations conducted by the Thompson Reuters Foundation which found that mobile biometric technologies are having some of the greatest impacts to their work in the field.

Nigeria: ID registration centers to prioritize exam candidates

Nigeria‘s National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has stated that ID enrollment centers will be giving preference to applicants hoping to sit the standardized 2020 university entrance exams, reports This Day.

This follows a collaboration between the NIMC and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board to make having a National Insurance Number compulsory for all applicants for the 2020 examinations, which have suffered from issues such as impersonation. The director general of the NIMC is urging schools and education authorities to provide guidance to students and their parents for the registration process.


Ghana: Electoral Commission ‘plotting to rig 2020 election for incumbent’

Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, general secretary of the main opposition party the National Democratic Congress (NDC), has said at a press conference he believes the electoral commission’s intention to compile a new biometric voter management register is part of a plot by the commission chairperson Jean Mensa to rig the 2020 presidential election in favor of the incumbent, Nana Akufo-Addo, reports The Punch.

“Their conduct, so far, portends a devious plan to set the stage to suppress voter numbers in the strongholds of the NDC and to bloat voter numbers in the strongholds of the [New Patriotic Party],” Nketiah is reported as saying.

News in Brief & Updates

In brief – Republic of Congo (Brazzaville): The main opposition party has called for a postponement of the upcoming 2021 presidential election to 2023 and without the incumbent President Sassou standing (who has been in power for 35 years), stating that biometric voter management systems should be brought in with help from the IMF.

In brief – Kenya: The UN Human Rights Council will conduct a periodic assessment of human rights in Kenya in January, where civil rights groups have reported concerns over abuses by the government of the biometric database.

Update – Ghana: The Electoral Commission has stated that compiling a new $78 million biometric voter management system would make more economic and operational sense than attempting to update the existing system, due to equipment replacement costs and the high failure rate of the existing system. The issue has been proving divisive in Ghanaian politics.

In brief – Nigeria: Biometric ghost worker identification leads to a dispute between Head of Service for Kogi State and a labor union as the union accuses the head of deliberately withholding for political reasons the names of 300 ghost workers who had somehow got back on the payrolls after a previous removal. The Organized Labor suspect senior civil servants of planting the names.

Update – Tanzania: Complaints arise from citizens in Kagera struggling to acquire ID numbers as the biometric SIM registration deadline approaches. A 20-day extension was recently announced for what was previously a December 31 deadline. Citizens are required to biometrically register their SIM cards along with a national ID number.

In brief – Ghana: Debate is raging over whether to discontinue licensing exams for teachers who would instead be given biometric teacher ID cards.

In brief – Benin: Health insurance provider Atlantique Assurances Bénin has launched the ‘Pactilis’ biometric card. The card should make accessing healthcare and the reimbursement procedure easier for holders

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