Biometrics and digital ID in Africa this week: coronavirus fallout, startup funding, Ghana electoral register

Biometrics and digital ID

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, some African institutions are reacting by suspending fingerprint-based biometric access and attendance systems in the hopes of reducing the risk of transmission. Limited testing facilities for the virus mean the extent of the spread is unknown and countries are responding in different ways as Morocco closes its airspace and Cameroon requires a document certifying that the bearer is free of Covid-19 before entering the country. ID4Africa 2020 has been postponed until October 28 to 30.

Elsewhere, disagreement has surfaced about what hardware to use for election registrations in Ghana and whether biometrics are reducing corruption in Uganda. In more positive news, several companies have announced positive developments in leadership, financing, and a major customer win.

Nigeria: Yellow Fever e-certificate enforced

The requirement to show a vaccination certificate against yellow fever to enter the country has been reinstated and an e-document version linked to the bearer’s biometrics is required to leave the country, reports The Premium Times.

The minister of health Osagie Ehanire announced that the requirement had been temporarily suspended to allow nationals to return home amid the coronavirus outbreak but that the reintroduction was to guard against the spread of yellow fever.

The biometric e-yellow cards are intended to reduce the number of cases of people buying fake certificates.

Ghana: Think tank criticises estimates $150M loss if EC goes ahead with new register

The IMANI Africa think tank predicts unnecessary spending of $150 million if the electoral commission buys new equipment and creates a new electoral register, reports Modern Ghana.

“Since 2011, it is a lie that we have not bought any new equipment and we’ve spent millions of dollars,” honorary vice president of the think tank, Bright Simons, is quoted as saying. “From the parliamentary records, we’ve seen almost US$80 million since then buying new things. So if we have to do anything, we just have to do a little more repairs, do a little maintenance, buy a few things, and that will not get you to the US$74 million that they said you need to improve the current system.”

Political coalition the Mass Action Committee has stated that claims the commission has not been upfront about existing biometric verification registration kits are unfounded, reports another article in Modern Ghana. They believe the purchase of new equipment will equate to savings of over $18 million.

Nigeria: Verification startup secures $1.5M funding from Orange

Youverify has secured $1.5 million seed funding from Orange Digital Ventures Africa reports TechNext.

The Lagos-based company helps businesses automate due diligence and compliance by providing address and identity verification with credit history and facial recognition through APIs.

Mali: Biometric health cards go into effect April 1

Malians will have to switch to a biometric health ID card by April 1 in order to keep accessing health services paid for by the compulsory health insurance (AOM), reports Mali Actu.

The funding body – CANAM – has changed to biometric cards to reduce fraud of the public health scheme. Large swathes of the north of the country are effectively without government control and it is not clear how many people have been able to register biometrically with CANAM.

Egypt: Biometric attendance systems suspended

Egyptian institutions have suspended fingerprint-based biometric systems to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, reports Egypt Today.

Government and judicial facilities have stopped using fingerprint readers nationwide and restricted attendance to just the critical personnel required for various functions, and employees must wear face masks if dealing with foreigners.

Civil servants will use paper attendance forms and banks are looking to introduce biometric cards rather than requiring physical contact. Similar suspensions are taking place elsewhere such as India and South Africa.

Opinion

Uganda: Biometrics haven’t reduced corruption

“Since the digitisation and use of biometric technology of some government processes and procedures, Ugandans had hoped that electronic taxation and improved methods of work would reduce corruption. They were wrong,” writes commentator Victoria Nyeko for the Daily Monitor.

Nyeko considers the recently-released report from the Auditor General for 2018-19 and examines the contributing factors for the large financial losses in the country, finding the way biometrics are used is not a silver bullet.

News in Brief & Updates

In brief – Nigeria: The governor of Borno State decided to oversee the biometric capture exercise for pensioners to ensure those registered receive their pensions.

In brief – Ghana/Nigeria/U.S.: Ghana’s New York City consulate suspends services such as passport applications to reduce risk of transmission of the coronavirus and Nigeria’s consulates and embassy likewise suspend services such as biometric capture.

In brief – Chad: Electoral commission appoints the Netherlands’ HSB Identification to update its electoral roll ahead of the December 2020 parliamentary elections which have been postponed for five years reports Africa Intelligence, adding that some opposition parties are not being permitted to submit electoral lists.

In brief – Africa: Digital ID firm Technologiks appoints Gerald Naidoo as CEO bringing with him his experience of rolling out pan-African tech initiatives.

Update – South Africa: More South African universities have suspended their biometric access systems of fears of the spread of the coronavirus. Joining the University of Pretoria are the University of Johannesburg and Wits University.

Link – Nigeria: Our coverage of a $30 million deal which will see BIO-key provide a biometric authentication platform to a Nigerian telco.

Link – South Africa: Our coverage of Capitec Bank’s announcement that more than 9 million of its customers have enrolled with its in-bank biometric client identification system provided by BIO-key.

Link – ID4Africa: Our coverage of the postponement of the ID4Africa 2020 summit due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event will now take place from October 28 to 30, 2020.

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