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Biometrics and digital ID across Africa this week: mass enrollments, closed borders and system failures


Biometrics and digital ID across Africa this week

While Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Chad either launched or announced mass enrollments for biometric civil registrations, the system in Tanzania has broken down, meaning an unknown wait for those who have applied for biometric ID in order to register and keep their SIM cards going. Kenya’s Huduma Namba scheme is subject to lengthy analysis by Privacy International in what proves to be an ongoing study of the issues at stake with the national biometric capture project.

Burkina Faso: Biometric voter registration underway, 4.5M new voters expected

The electoral roll is expected to climb by 4.5 million to around 10 million in time for the joint presidential and legislative elections on 22 November 2020. The electoral commission has launched the biometric sign up campaign in Dédougou, reports Koaci, where the first biometric card was issued.

However, there are thought to be a further two million Burkinabés living abroad in countries such as neighboring Côte d’Ivoire with very low sign-up rates and electoral participation.

Nigeria/ECOWAS: Bloc countries meet to tackle issue of Nigeria closing borders

In light of Nigeria closing its borders with neighboring fellow ECOWAS states, contravening the freedom of movement and trade, trade ministers gathered in Ouagadougou to try to find a way to bring an end to the standoff, reports Naija News.

The closing of the land borders of Africa’s most populous nation has impacted not just its immediate neighbors such as Niger, but trading partners throughout the region such as Côte d’Ivoire. Individuals are also facing problems crossing the borders using their biometric ECOWAS ID cards. It is reported that Nigeria is concerned over people trafficking. ECOWAS members seek to reassure Nigeria of the benefits of the ECOWAS system.

The head of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede has said his service does not have the power to reopen the country’s borders, reports The Vanguard. He said only President Buhari could do that and also that the borders were open from 6am to 6pm.

Meanwhile the World Bank, French Development Agency and the European Investment Bank are together investing $430 million to boost Nigeria’s digital ID ecosystem, helping the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) increase sign-up rates and safeguard personal data and improve legal and technical standards.

Côte d’Ivoire: Mass enrollment begins for new national ID cards

Mass enrollment began in Abidjan, the commercial capital of Côte d’Ivoire, for the new generation of biometric ID cards produced by Semlex, reports CIO Magazine.

The cards are being issued as part of the new National Register of Individuals (Registre National des Personnes Physiques, RNPP). The cards are produced by Semlex whose success in the tender process proved controversial. The 50 billion franc ($83 million) public private partnership is expected to register around 11 million Ivorians of whom 6.3 million already have cards which technically expired in June 2019 but which were extended to June 2020 after a public outcry over the cost of the new cards. Having a card should grant the holder access to the electoral roll for the October 2020 presidential election.

Tanzania: Biometric ID registration system breaks down

Fresh woes for Tanzanians hoping to biometrically register their SIM cards to comply with the recent court ruling, as the National Identification Authority (NIDA) experiences a systems failure, reports The Citizen. Tanzanians waiting for the biometric ID cards of ID numbers needed for registering their SIMs will have to wait longer.

New figures from the telecoms regulator show that over 75 percent of the country’s 43.7 million SIMs have now been registered and 3 million have been deactivated.

Liberia: Biometrics for better Mano River Union integration

The head of Liberia’s National Identification Registry (NIR), J. Tiah Nagbe, has said that an established biometric scheme operating across Mano River Union countries could help close financial gaps and improve the credibility of governance systems, reports GNN Liberia.

Member countries of the Mano River Union economic alliance are Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and, more recently, Côte d’Ivoire. Nagbe spoke when an MRU delegation visited Liberia’s NIR facilities in Monrovia. He said that biometric enrolment of citizens in MRU states could cut costs of administration in areas such as voter registration and allow greater economic development.

Liberia has struggled to attract citizens to sign up for its own biometric scheme.

Opinion & Reports

Kenya: Privacy International on the Huduma Namba trial

Following the recent ruling by the High Court on aspects of Kenya’s national identity scheme resulting in the halting of the project, Privacy International has produced an analysis of the court’s findings. The judgement is subject to appeal, but so far the organization does not believe that the court went far enough in areas such as the provision of safeguards for data protection, and discrimination and resulting exclusion for sections of society. Privacy International also believe that the trial did not adequately question the overall purpose of the scheme.

News in Brief & Updates

In brief – Kenya: The Star exposes a Facebook page urging people to upgrade to biometric driving licences as fake, impersonating the National Transport and Safety Authority account.

In brief – Chad: A 20-day period to update the biometric electoral register will begin on May 20 after December 13 date for legislative elections is announced.

In brief – Morocco/South Africa: Cape Town’s Moroccan community has been able to enjoy the facilities of a mobile consulate offering services including the issuance of biometric passports.

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