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African nations and fintechs urged to boost digital ID, DPI for economic gain

Chorus calling for unified African digital identity grows
African nations and fintechs urged to boost digital ID, DPI for economic gain

Representatives of Africa’s fintech sector heard about the importance of digital identity, and digital public infrastructure more generally, to the growth of the continent’s financial services market at the recent 3i Africa Summit in Accra, Ghana.

Ravi Menon, senior mentor at fintech collaboration not-for-profit Elevandi, who is also Singapore’s Ambassador for Climate Action, highlighted the need for secure, reliable digital identities for both individuals and businesses in Africa.

“Digital Identity as DPI” is also the theme of ID4Africa’s 2024 AGM, on next week in Cape Town, South Africa.

Menon says that over 40 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa still do not posses a legal proof of identity or a digital ID. Only 35 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans have access to banking services, he adds.

“A pan-African digital ID is a powerful enabler for a digital economy,” Menon said.

The statement echoes those made by Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for ICT Eliud Owalo about an integrated African digital identity at the 2024 Transform Africa Summit.

Kenya’s own efforts have been hampered by a lack of trust, but Citizen and Immigration Principal Secretary Julius Bitok told the Network of Africa Data Protection Authorities Conference that the government has now completed more than 10 data protection impact assessments on the country’s digital ID system. Data Protection Commissioner Immaculate Kassait confirmed that her office has received DPIAs from the Ministry of the Interior, and is engaged in both an audit and training for the Ministry.

Kenya News Agency reports that Bitok assured attendees that the government is committed to following all legal obligations and ensuring the protection of citizens’ data. More than 13 million people have registered with Kenya’s eCitizen platform, he says.

Bitok also stated that with around 30,000 enrollments per day, digital ID issuance could reach the entire adult population of Kenya, 32 million people, with a year or two.

More than 16,000 services are available through eCitizen, he says, generating million Kenyan shillings per day in revenue for the government. The eCitizen platform connects with the Maisha Namba digital ID system, which includes both a physical card and a digital credential, through the IPRS database.

Also speaking during the 3i Summit, Ghanian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo promoted the gains his country has made through the adoption of its digital ID system, 3News reports. The system, including the Ghana Card and Ghana.gov portal, has contributed to economic stabilization in Ghana, he says. Improved access to financial services and lower fraud are two of the advantages gained from the system, according to Akufo-Addo.

Digital ID is now possessed by 17 million people in Ghana.

Digital and legal infrastructure

Zambia’s Minister of Technology and Science Felix Mutati tells CIO Africa that he supports the recent call from Kenyan officials for collaboration among African nations to work towards digital transformation.

Mutati also recently visited data centers in Nairobi, and stresses the importance of investing in digital infrastructure.

Legal and regulatory infrastructure must also be strengthened in many African countries, as discussed at length in the latest issue of the Association for Progressive Communications’ (APC’s) Digital Rights Southern African magazine.

The April 2024 issue highlights gaps in data protection and privacy laws and risks to human rights from biometric and digital identity systems in the six nations that make up the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The SADC is composed of Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Eswatini.

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