Bitventure, VerifyMe, CompuLynx offer new digital ID and biometrics solutions to African market
Reporting by Reuters reveals how not only is the DRC not renewing its biometric passport contract with Semlex in June, but that its citizens have filed a civil action in Belgium to access the authorities’ investigation into the firm. And a report on Nigerian firm VerifyMe goes back to the reasons why its founder wanted a way to verify staff, as the company hopes to expand across Africa. Both explore grassroots, bottom-up approaches to dealing with and developing biometric and digital ID schemes in Africa.
DRC: Government will not renew passports contract with Semlex
The DRC will not renew its passport contract with Belgian firm Semlex once it expires on June 11 according to Reuters. The agency lists its sources as a senior official and a letter it has seen from the DRC’s foreign minister to the biometrics company.
After previous president Joseph Kabila signed a contract for the production of biometric passports, prosecutors began investigating the deal for corruption. A Reuters investigation in 2017 details how Semlex secured deals across Africa. In Congo it resulted in an increase of the passport price to $185, among the most expensive in the world. Semlex has denied any wrongdoing.
The Reuters investigation triggered the Belgian authorities to raid Semlex’s HQ in 2018, but no further details have emerged.
Reuters also reports how DRC citizens and rights groups are bringing civil action against Semlex in Belgium.
Petitioners are seeking case records. Reuters quotes Fred Bauma, a Congolese pro-democracy campaigner involved in the petition as saying in a statement: “We want the Belgian judiciary to lift the veil on this case and punish any individual or company who may be found guilty of corruption.”
The petition is coordinated by Congo Is Not For Sale (CINFS) which states it filed the civil party case on behalf of 51 Congolese citizens.
South Africa: Bitventure and TransUnion announce partnership for ID, anti-fraud
Bitventure is bringing its identity verification expertise and TransUnion its information and insights speciality to form a partnership that will allow South African firms to improve their identity management capabilities and fraud prevention, according to a release from Bitventure.
The pairing should bring firms the information to make real-time decisions on identity for onboarding whether in-store or online by comparing an ID number to a photo retrieved from South Africa’s Home Affairs bureau.
TransUnion Africa’s regional president, Lee Naik, said TransUnion’s fraud and identity management suite, which combines consumer records with global device intelligence to unify personal and digital identities, will be enhanced by the partnership.
ID4Africa: Greater land and sea border security needed as African travel increases
Technology can support land and maritime border forces in securing countries, their citizens and even wildlife as travel increases in Africa and the continent enacts its free trade agreements, writes Antoine Grenier, Idemia’s Africa VP, for the latest Almanac article for ID4Africa, presumably before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Grenier argues that common travel documents within regional blocs such as ECOWAS, plus the African Continental Free Trade Area mean borders are left vulnerable. Yet land and sea borders are not as well equipped as airports for controlling passage, are inherently harder to police and do not have common standards as air travel does.
He states that collecting passenger data is key. Generating profiles and detecting patterns in movement allows borders to identify differences. Entry-Exit tracking allows for regional, national and even continental security, as long as cross-border commuters could join a registered traveler scheme.
The variety of border setting requires a variety of biometric responses: counters for enrolling travelers in commuter schemes, e-gates to handle large volumes, and handheld devices for staff to check passengers on buses and boats.
Nigeria: The story of VerifyMe and its co-founder Esigie Aguele
A fantastic tale of how a cook poisoned families to rob them led to the creation of VerifyMe by Olutunji Oluwole, whose son was nearly killed in a poisoning. He was joined by Esigie Aguele who returned to Nigeria after working for decades in the U.S.
The account in How We Made It In Africa details the company’s beginnings in collecting identity data in housing estates – the sorts where the criminal chef had operated – before NIMC banned this and instead began sharing its data with VerifyMe and other companies.
Aguele believes lending and therefore KYC are critical for Nigeria’s development, and to have easy ways to verify people working in the gig economy and ways to run checks on new employees for firms, including his own. Aguele hopes to begin operations in two more countries in Africa in the next 12 months.
The company has formed a partnership with Jobberman, which will recruit verification agents from each state and local government area in Nigeria to deliver last-mile authentication capacity to create up to 30,000 jobs, according to This Day.
In the partnership announcement, Aguele said the company has seen a significant increase in demand for eKYC, biometric verification, anti-money laundering and CBN compliant verification services.
Africa: Why Africa should keep supporting tech systems
African governments have made rapid progress with ICT and identity projects in recent decades and should continue to invest in them and adapt them to local requirements, argues Roheen Berry, managing director of Contec Global, a conglomerate which offers biometric services and handles the management of foreign nationals in Nigeria.
Zimbabwe: Lawyers call for legal framework as smart city plans emerge
After news emerged of Harare being transformed into a Huawei smart city project, two lawyers are calling for a corresponding legal framework. Writing in The Independent, Kuda Hove and Otto Saki state the data needed for such a project to work must be legally collected and processed, and limits imposed on its usage. They say that Zimbabwe does not have such a framework.
They write: “Currently, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) is the main law used to protect the right to privacy and regulate data protection in Zimbabwe. This Act does little to provide actual guidance on how data collected through a city-wide CCTV system should be handled and protected.” There is no law to prevent abuses such as CCTV being used to target and follow individuals.
News in Brief & Updates
In brief – Kenya: Biometric solutions for digital account opening, card issuance and contactless payments will be offered by security software developer CompuLynx, Business Daily writes. The Nairobi-based company says facial and voice recognition will be used, along with identity experts, in verifying applicants to identity documents.
In brief – Nigeria: Despite biometric verification of candidates required to sit the university entrance exam being introduced in 2013, cheating still happens. A report in Premium Times states there were 195 cases of malpractice, and 102 happened across just six states. Almost two million students sat the exam.
In brief – Ghana: Concerns are growing that biometric voter registration is another way of spreading coronavirus as the country gears up for a November election. Critics point out that biometric attendance machines have been suspended to reduce transmission.
In brief – Nigeria: Borno state saves 400 million Naira ($1.02 million) in pension fraud through biometric verification. 90 percent of pensioners have been cleared and of the remaining 10 percent, some are still awaiting clearance.
Africa | biometric passport | biometrics | Bitventure | border management | CompuLynx | data protection | Democratic Republic of Congo | digital identity | KYC | Nigeria | Semlex | South Africa | VerifyMe Nigeria | Zimbabwe