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Somalia begins issuing new biometric digital ID developed with NADRA’s help

First national ID cards after 30 years of waiting
Somalia begins issuing new biometric digital ID developed with NADRA’s help

Somalia has launched its own biometric identity card system with the head of the government expressing hope it will help its citizens overcome a “myriad socioeconomic challenges” as the country struggles with terrorist groups.

During the launch of the ID on Saturday in the capital of Mogadishu, Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre said that introducing a national ID would help combat security threats, terrorism and identity fraud. The country is currently struggling to contain al-Shabab militants in central Somalia.

“This system will boost our businesses and economy, our banks, communication and Hawala money transfer systems. It will strictly deal with terror networks and the fight against extremism,” Barre says.

A video report by CGTN Africa shows the enrollment of fingerprint and face biometrics, along with the individual’s signature. In addition to biometric enrollment, the registration process also includes an interview and document validation.

The government plans to register 15 million Somalis for the national ID by the end of 2026, and eventually open registration offices in each of the country’s districts.

The ID system represents a significant milestone for Somalia. The war-torn country’s national citizen registry collapsed during the turbulent 1990s when unrest and economic turmoil resulted in the downfall of government leadership.

The new digital ID is being launched with the help of Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and a multi-million dollar grant provided by the government of Pakistan. NADRA has been working with Somalia’s government on ID since signing an MoU in 2018.

During the launch, NADRA Chairman Asad Rehman Gilani said that the delivery of the Somali national ID was a part of Pakistan’s “Look Africa” policy, Pakistan Today reports. NADRA is playing a role in providing identity solutions to governments across Africa, including Kenya, Sudan, and Nigeria.

“The National ID System will not only bolster security but also pave the way for inclusive development, financial empowerment, and improved governance. It is a shining example of NADRA’s commitment to excellence and our dedication to our global partners,” says Gilani.

Prime Minister Barre and President Mohamud were the first to receive the new national identification cards. Mohamud described the rollout as a key milestone that can enhance security, access to public service provision and provide citizens with a means to establish their identity, Anadolu Agency reports.

Operated by the National Identification and Registration Authority Somalia, the system was introduced after the country’s senate approved a revised legislation for the new national ID card registry in March. That same month, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud also signed the Public Data Protection Act meant to regulate the new digital ID system.

The launch event was attended by representatives of organizations supporting the system’s development, including ID4Africa, the World Bank and other governments. Policy think tank The Heritage Institute of Mogadishu warns, however, that the implementation of the country’s digital ID system could still face challenges.

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