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Congo’s troubled, lucrative biometric passport contract still open?

Congo’s troubled, lucrative biometric passport contract still open?

It still is not known who, if anyone, has won a contract to make biometric passports for the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo.

The contract with Congo, a large, south-central African nation of 95 million people, could be lucrative, but Congo’s political currents and cross-currents make handicapping the winner tricky.

July 15 was to be the day a winner was chosen, but at deadline, no announcement had been made.

A gated analysis by Africa Intelligence indicates that Belgian firm Semlex will keep the biometric contract, which, except for five months last year, it has held since 2016. Semlex subsidiary Locosem has the contract now.

Semlex has almost 30 years of experience in Africa, marketing itself as being adept at smooth identity management deployments. Its original agreement with Congo was to create a national identification database along with staff training to maintain the system.

Ten digital ID companies from around the world have submitted bids, according to Africa Intelligence. Among them are IN Groupe (owned by the government of France), Pangea in Israel, Dermalog in Germany, Toppan (owner of Toppan iDGate) in Japan, ANY in Hungary and a pair of companies from Turkey: Poltech Electronic and Gateway.

Much of Africa Intelligence’s analysis of the tender offer involves who has a relationship with which present or former government officials.

Semlex also has been hit with accusations of corruption and money laundering. The price of biometric passports in Congo soared under Semlex, to $185, a price Reuters says is among the most expensive.

The accusations also touched off a wave of scrutiny of the company and its dealings in Africa.

Some accused the company of skimming as much as a third of its passport revenue to a secret bank account. A 2017 investigation by the news service alleged that $60 of the passport fee went to a small firm in the United Arab Emirates owned by a close relative to Joseph Kabila, president of Congo at the time.

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