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Nigeria shows biometric flexibility, slow progress on voter registers continues across Africa


Biometrics and digital ID

Biometric voting, and the registration required, are once again proving problematic in several African countries. Somalia will miss its target of a November election as it has been unable to put into place election infrastructure or register its people. In Ghana, the plan to populate a new biometric register is continuing to spark controversy with legal challenges and observers deployed to registration centers. Meanwhile Lagos is attempting video conferencing to verify identity and perform liveness checks on its pensioners, and Gambia releases a progress report on its ID issuance.

Somalia: Call for deferred biometric election in 2021

Political differences, flooding, COVID-19 and insecurity have led to the Somalia National Independent Electoral Commission announcing that the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections will not take place in November as scheduled, reports VOA.

The chair of the NIEC, Halima Ismail Ibrahim (named Halima Yarey in other reports), said the biometric registration necessary could not be completed in time, nor could other aspects of election logistics such as registering candidates and parties.

Although around six million Somalis are eligible to vote, the commission only had a registration target of three million. The chair has said another 13 months are required, meaning a date in August 2021, though a cheaper, quicker alternative with manual registration could be achieved in nine months. This would require parliamentary approval.

Radio Shabelle reports that the UN has called on the country’s leaders to reach a consensus on the issue.

This would be the first ‘one person, one vote’ election since 1969 and the first with universal suffrage for over two decades since the civil war that was triggered by the collapse of the government in 1992.

The last poll was in February 2017  where MPs voted in fortified airport buildings in the capital Mogadishu.

Ghana: Biometric voter registration update – High Court, stranded citizens and breakdowns

Ghana’s High Court has dismissed another call to stop work going ahead on a new voter register. The Ghanainan Times reports that motion filed by an MP who want the court to recognize that the existing register is valid until the Parliament revokes it. Like similar cases, this was rejected.

The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers is deploying 100 observers to monitor voter registration, reports Modern Ghana. Meanwhile some Ghanaians are asking for ways to be able to register abroad to vote on their return. Trapped abroad due to the coronavirus, they argue they have the required ID to register.

And a breakdown of voter registration equipment was reported in Oda, Easter Region, where it took an hour to register just two people.

Nigeria: Lagos takes biometric verification for pensioners online

The annual biometric and facial verification of pensioners called ‘I Am Alive’ has gone online this year in Lagos due to efforts maintain social distancing, reports the The Daily Trust. Pensioners would usually present themselves at the local government offices, but this year government staff will conduct interviews via video conferencing platforms such as Skype and Zoom.

PM Newswire reports that government staff will verify the retirees’ identity and documents via the calls, which will also include a liveness test.

Gambia: 232,000 biometric ID cards issued since 2018

Since the new card was introduced in October 2018, 232,721 biometric ID cards have been issued, generating over D100 million ($2 million), reports Foroyaa.

Another 200,000 are expected by the end of 2020 as four new centers are opened. Semlex has the contract and currently produces only at its local HQ in Kanifing. A minister is reported to have said that 60 percent of the fees go to Semlex and 40 percent to the state.

The progress means around 10 percent of the population has been registered, though 61 percent of recipients are male.

Opinion & Reports

Kenya: The ambition and risk of Huduma Namba

A one-stop timeline and general overview of Kenya’s controversial digital identity scheme from a legal perspective, with links to many of the important articles written on the subject around the world. The report is compiled by Ikigai Law, a New Delhi-based firm which specializes in new technologies.

Africa: A model for Europe?

Africa could be a model for Europe in areas of the digital economy, identity and data sovereignty, argues Lionel Baraban, CEO of Famoco, which provides remote devices for payments and biometric verification. The latest article for ID4Africa states “it is not only a technological revolution that is happening in Africa like anywhere else but rather the way African people are applying innovation and implementing it to their day to day usage that is disrupting.”

News in Brief & Updates

Link – South Africa: Our coverage of South Africa’s FlowCentric and Eldir jointly developing a facial recognition and thermal detection solution for screening to help businesses get back to work after COVID-19 lockdowns are eased.

In brief – Burkina Faso: Biometric voter registration is to resume in Sidéradougou after it was previously stopped over insecurity in March. The district has around 63,000 potential new voters and is part of the southwestern Comoé region, bordering Côte d’Ivoire. The presidential and national assembly elections are due on November 22.

In brief – Nigeria: BVN has been used in assigning farming inputs in Anambra. 535 maize farmers received $230,000 of inputs from the Central Bank Anchor Borrowers Programme although farmers were initially reluctant to provide their BVN.

Link – World/Rwanda: Our coverage of ID2020 naming Zaka Group as another partner for user empowerment and privacy protection. The company operates around the world including voice biometrics in Rwanda for customer verification.

Link – Zimbabwe, Belt & Road: Our coverage of how the smart city surveillance apparatus developed in China is spreading along the Belt and Road trade initiative routes including in Zimbabwe.

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