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Cameroon begins pilot to issue 6k biometric ID cards to CAR refugees

Visa equipment in place, voter ID enrollment kits coming
Cameroon begins pilot to issue 6k biometric ID cards to CAR refugees

Authorities in Cameroon have launched a project that seeks to deliver biometric identity cards to refugees from its eastern neighbor, the Central African Republic (CAR), and updated two other digital ID projects.

The pilot phase of the refugee project was launched this past week in Cameroon’s East Region and will see the issuance of 6,000 biometrics-based IDs to refugees living in camps there.

East Region Governor Gregoire Mvongo, who chaired a ceremony in the town of Mandjo to launch the project, said the issuance of the cards is not only meant to accord legal identity to the displaced persons, but to facilitate the process for their socio-economic integration. The cards will, among other things, enable holders to open and run bank accounts, and to circulate freely within the country.

During the ceremony, a first batch of the cards was handed to beneficiaries.

After the pilot that will run for the next few months, the issuance of the IDs will continue for other refugees. The project is implemented by the government of Cameroon in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency, with some financing from the World Bank, according to the External Relations Ministry.

Cameroon is host to over 300,000 CAR refugees hosted mostly in the country’s East and Far North regions. The Centre and Littoral Regions host smaller populations.

During an international conference organized by Cameroon in April, CAR refugees who spoke to Biometric Update expressed the need for the host government to issue them biometric ID cards so that they can easily identify themselves and access vital services.

Equipment for biometric visas in place

The system for the processing and issuing biometric visas by the Cameroonian government will soon be in place after the company in charge of the contract delivered equipment to the Ministry of External Relations.

In a recent ceremony at the Ministry, Impact Palmarès R&D, the Côte d’Ivoire-based company selected to execute the project on a Build-Operate-Transfer basis, handed the biometric equipment, and also made a demonstration of the four stages that will be involved in the visa process – from online application to issuance.

The company CEO Girèsse Justin Tella said they are hopeful the biometric visa system will be in place by the end of this year.

A deal for the switch to biometric visas for Cameroon was concluded with Impact Palmarès on 1 April 2022. Apart from installing the system at the Ministry of External Relations in Yaounde and in all of Cameroon’s diplomatic and consular missions abroad, the company will also have the mandate to produce biometric cards for consular staff.

Meanwhile, legislators on Sunday 3 July adopted a bill in parliament to create the legal framework for the planned switch to a biometric visa system. The bill amends and supplements some provisions of Law No 97/12 of 10 January 1997 to lay down the conditions of entry, stay and exit for aliens in Cameroon, to allow for the issuance of biometric visas.

Addressing lawmakers in Parliament while defending the bill, External Relations Minister Mbella Mbella said they intend to get the digital visa system working by next month.

Elections body to renew biometric kits

Speaking during a recent meeting, the board chairperson of Cameroon’s elections management body (ELECAM), Enow Abrams Egbe, said they are planning to acquire new biometric voter enrollment kits.

Although he did not give details on the project, he said the objective is to have a state-of-the-art biometric voter registration system that meets international standards, and which will also enable ELECAM speed up the voter registration process.

It is understood that ELECAM’s biometric voter technology currently in use is supplied by GenKey and Veridos.

Cameroon enrolls potential voters into its national voter register every year between the months of January and August. The next general elections in the central African nation are due in 2025.

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