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Mastercard partnership to capture biometrics of 30 million Africans

Mastercard partnership to capture biometrics of 30 million Africans

A joint venture by Mastercard’s Community Pass and its partner Paycode aims to capture the biometrics of 30 million individuals in remote parts of Africa over the next three years. The plan is to issue them with a Mastercard Community Pass biometric smart card running Paycode’s platforms to provide a biometric digital identity and a digital bank account, according to a joint release.

Users’ face and palm biometrics are stored in a chip on Mastercard’s Community Pass smart cards. Paycode, which has been part of Mastercard’s business accelerator schemes runs a platform which offers the card holder a biometric identity (not a national identity) and financial services such as a digital bank account. Services can be accessed offline in real-time. Users do not need an existing identity document.

“Together, Paycode and Mastercard deliver a path to prosperity, enabling users to manage day-to-day needs including paying school fees for children, getting vaccinations for their families, selling goods, and growing their businesses,” states the release.

The partnership intends to help card holders “seamlessly access financial, health, agricultural, or aid services across providers, including government disbursements.”

Mastercard has previously stated that it hopes the Community Pass will deliver “consistent digital identity.” The card payments company, whose income rose 36 percent in its latest financials, is rapidly developing its digital identity offerings and recently acquired digital identity specialist Ekata for $850 million.

“Adding Inclusive ID functionality to Paycode biometric smart cards helps reach those currently excluded from critical government programs and ensures we are addressing basic financial needs of a dispersed population,” said Ricardo Pareja, SVP, Sales and Market Development, H&D for Mastercard.

Adding biometrics to cards used in humanitarian settings has been restricted by aid organizations such as the ICRC. A consortium of NGOs has questioned issues of consent for providing biometrics for schemes when taking part is required for receiving welfare and aid disbursements.

The announcement follows a recent survey by Mastercard into the enthusiasm for biometrics payments in African countries known to have dynamic and innovative digital sectors: Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Mastercard was involved in a pilot scheme in Nigeria in 2014 where 13 million Mastercard-branded biometric ID cards were issued which contained the payment company’s prepaid technology.

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