Coronavirus becomes Africa’s new biometric election registration variable, Côte d’Ivoire ID signup slow

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Biometric voter registers require biometric voter registration. Neighboring Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are both due to go to biometrically secured polls at the end of the year and both are undergoing biometric registration. Enter COVID-19. The pandemic has slowed signup up in Côte d’Ivoire and stopped it in Ghana, a decision both welcomed and opposed, depending on one’s affiliation. Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, the weak spot of biometric security doors is exploited in an inside job robbery.

Ghana: Biometric capture caught in the COVID crossfire

The Coronavirus pandemic continues to fuel issues surrounding Ghana’s Electoral Commission and biometric capture exercise. Since the commission announced in March 2019 that there would be a new register, the area of biometric voting in Ghana has become increasing contentious.

The subsequent announcement that only biometrically registered voters would be allowed to cast a ballot, and decision to update its equipment to include facial recognition of voters, there have been public demonstrations and walk outs from meetings involving the commission.

Into this heated environment came the COVID-19 outbreak. For opponents of the project, the restrictions on gatherings, particularly in the populous south, and the suspension of registration were seen as a welcome way to slow down what they see as the run up to a rigged election in December.

But now there are calls to continue biometric registration in areas outside lockdown. Former president of the Ghana Bar Association, Sam Okudzeto, who is also a member of the Council of State advisory board close to the president, has called on the Electoral Commission to begin voter registration in areas not in lockdown, reports Modern Ghana.

Likewise, the Centre for Democratic Development has called on the commission to keep working on the new electoral roll, reports The Ghana Crusader. Its concern is the time pressure for registration should the pandemic persist beyond May.

Disputing the quality of the biometric voter register has now become an integral part of every election in Ghana. The cost and trustworthiness of the systems and providers along with policy for voter qualification and now even how to continue during a pandemic are the new election variables for how well biometrics can assure the individual voters.

Côte d’Ivoire: Slow progress for new biometric ID signup

Only 130,000 people have undergone biometric capture for new ID cards according to CIO Magazine, with the novel coronavirus blamed for the low turnout and measures taken at enrollment centers meaning capture is taking longer.

The national scheme launched in mid-February 2020 and aims to register 6.5 million people in time for the presidential elections, still officially going ahead in October 2020. According to a statement from the minister in charge, Sidiki Diakité, the teams had “just found their rhythm” when they had to apply the brakes.

Some 1,700 kits are already in use, with another 2,000 ready for deployment, but the coronavirus has brought the exercise to a standstill. The main city Abidjan and its immediate environs have been cut off from the interior of the country.

Côte d’Ivoire has over a thousand confirmed cases of the virus and has also closed its borders.

Opinion

ID4Africa: Digital foundational ID for fairer, more efficient social protection

In the latest of the ID4Africa series of articles, senior partner at EY, Thampy Koshy, uses Burkina Faso as an example for the need to ensure that digital foundational ID helps social welfare payments reach those most in need.

Data from Burkina Faso show that while social protection as a percentage of GDP is rising, it tends to be the richest quartile who benefit the most. Koshy argues that digital functional ID can tackle the issues of verifying uniqueness and linking siloed welfare schemes.

News in Brief & Updates

In brief – Zimbabwe: Man robbed of $100,000 after insider leaves two biometric security doors partially open.

Link: Our coverage of the UNHCR’s moves to go contactless for refugee biometrics as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Read the full UNHCR report.

Link: A guest post for Biometric Update on Zambia’s plan for mass enrollment for voter registration and biometric ID.

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