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Biometrics and digital ID in Africa this week: increasing CCTV surveillance, new ID document contracts

Biometrics and digital ID in Africa this week: increasing CCTV surveillance, new ID document contracts

Madagascar and Zimbabwe seem to be shifting toward far greater government surveillance with public CCTV networks, according to reports this week. Madagascar is also planning to track the spending of all its civil servants. DRC has unfrozen its ID document contracts, creating intense competition among European bidders, while Côte d’Ivoire deals with rumors of World Bank funding to make its new cards free. Last week we reported how a university in Nigeria used biometrics for a student union election and one week later a university in South Africa is disabling its biometric access equipment to reduce the chance of coronavirus transmission among students.

South Africa: Biometrics disabled to counter spread of coronavirus

The University of Pretoria has temporarily deactivated its fingerprint physical access control system to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, reports News24.

Although the country’s first reported case was in the far eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, spurring the university to act, a second case in its home Gauteng province has since been confirmed.

Students will still use their access cards to enter campus, but internal systems will be bypassed over coming days.

DRC: ID contracts back on the table leading to frenzy

After a suspension under former president Joseph Kabila, contracts for passports, voter ID and driving licences are now up for grabs in Félix Tshisekedi’s term and seeing brisk competition, reports African Intelligence.

A Congolese delegation has already traveled to France to visit biometrics and ID credential providers Idemia, Gemalto and the government-owned Imprimerie Nationale, according to the report. These companies are vying for the voter ID and electoral register contracts and hope to oust Semlex to get the lucrative passports deal.

While the DRC is looking to France, German companies have been visiting Uganda. African Intelligence reports that Mühlbauer is one such business and that surveillance and cybersecurity are some of the main areas of expertise of the visitors.

German company Veridos is reportedly falling behind on its ID contract with the Ugandan government and while this may be an opportunity for the likes of Gemalto, Kampala is concerned about falling German investment interest.

Zimbabwe: Toward a surveillance state?

A report in The Standard outlines the preparations underway for what could potentially be a highly-monitored state with facial recognition widely used on government surveillance cameras.

The Smart Cities project would aim to transform life on- and offline, but critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa fear the infrastructure could be used to monitor opposition as has been the case elsewhere in Africa as the country ‘wanders towards authoritarianism.’

Chinese technology ties are strengthening in the country: “Huawei Technologies, a Chinese telecoms giant helping to build the backbone infrastructure for the surveillance system, which will also support the Chinese-built Parliament currently under construction in the proposed new capital city in Mount Hampden, was last month granted income tax exemption curiously backdated to December 30, 2009.”

Côte d’Ivoire: World Bank publicly denies 30B FCFA ID funding rumor

After rumors of 30 billion FCFA (US$51.6 million) of funding from the World Bank to make the new generation of ID cards free of charge to citizens, the bank had to publicly announce that this was not the case, various local media such as 7info report.

Executive Secretary of the opposition party PDCI stated at a press conference on February 28 that the World Bank ‘would have granted 30 billion FCFA’ to make the credential free. The first generation had been free though they are now expiring. Semlex won the contract and this time there will be a 5000 FCFA fee ($8.60), which has proved highly controversial.

The World Bank denied that it was co-financing Côte d’Ivoire’s project but reiterated that it does support ID projects in ECOWAS countries such as the WURI unique numbers, but that this would not begin in Côte d’Ivoire until 2021.

The registration exercise for the new national ID cards is underway. There were 20,501 people signed up in the first pilot week and full operations will commence on March 15 with 2,000 kits going into use, reports the Journal du Cameroun. Among those initial registrations, 94 percent were for renewals.

Madagascar: Israel’s Pangea IT to reap benefits of encroaching surveillance state

Foreign firms are securing deals with the Madagascan government as it increases measures to monitor and control its civil servants and citizens, reports African Intelligence.

Israel’s Pangea IT is building an e-payment system for 364,000 state employees, teachers and students which will allow the government to monitor their spending habits and give the IT firm a 3 percent cut of payments going in and out of accounts for the next 25 years. The system should weed out ghost employees and be fully operational by September 2021.

Pangea acquired biometrics company NIP Global in 2018 for an estimated $30 million.

Meanwhile, Huawei is installing links between the presidential palace and the ministries and installing over 1,000 CCTV cameras in the main cities.

News in Brief & Updates

Update – Sierra Leone: Speaker of parliament summons DG of the National Civil Registration Authority to next parliamentary sessions to explain his notice that citizens would have to register for biometric ID in order to vote.

In brief – Kenya: Teachers to undergo fresh biometric capture for head count purposes to weed out ghosts and check qualifications, with an initial pilot running May 11 to 15 before going national.

Link – Nigeria/South Africa: Our coverage of Nigeria’s Access Bank launching facial biometrics for merchant payments and South Africa’s Standard Bank adding facial recognition to its mobile app.

Link – ID4Africa: Our coverage of the priorities for identity development to be debated at ID4Africa 2020.

Link – ID4Africa: Our coverage of the announcement postponing ID4Africa 2020 from June 2 to 4 until October 28 to 30. The annual meeting will still take place in Marrakesh, Morocco as planned.

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