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Seamfix CEO makes case for digital ID as unlocker of Africa’s growth potential

Seamfix CEO makes case for digital ID as unlocker of Africa’s growth potential

The co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Seamfix, Chimezie Emewulu, has posited that digital identity and related services have the undeniable power to boost Africa’s socio-economic growth, enabling the creation of huge opportunities for all and sundry.

Emewulu was speaking in an interview with Biometric Update following the company’s recent obtention of funding from institutional investor Alitheia IDF Fund to scale its digital ID offering, and expand to new territory. The announcement of the $4.5 million funding was made early last month.

In the chat, the Seamfix CEO explains the impact investment from the fund is expected to create, his thoughts about the increasing adoption of digital ID in Africa, the crucial nature of digital ID interoperability and data protection, the company’s involvement in Nigeria’s digital identity journey, as well as their future investment and expansion plans, among other things.

Identity is a right, not a privilege

The name Seamfix is a portmanteau of the words “Seamless” and “fixing,” a company which the CEO says has been helping thousands of businesses around the world to “seamlessly create, access and verify trusted identities.”

“This is a very interesting time in the life of Seamfix. Interesting because as our name indicates – seamless fixing of problems – we believe identity is a right and not a privilege, and we believe everybody deserves equal access to opportunities through identity,” says Emewulu.

Talking about opportunities, the Seamfix CEO says their desire to contribute to the creation of such opportunities was their motivation for seeking the recently acquired funding.

“We looked at Africa and realized that digital identity can unlock between three and 13 percent of its GDP. We hold that for Africa to be transformed, it has to be led by the digital economy, the underpinning of which is digital identity. This is why we decided to reach out to institutional investors to support us in this journey to ensure that we are able to capture that value,” says Emewulu.

“Right now, the size of the [identity] market is very significant. It’s important to note that about 542 million to 600 million people in Africa don’t have proper identity. Out of this, we have about 95 million children in sub–Saharan Africa who have not been registered in any birth registry. So, there’s a big opportunity to be captured.”

Emewulu sees his company playing a major role in contributing to an Africa where identity becomes the game-changer for socio-economic development, prosperity and good fortune.

“Seamfix, in analysing all these opportunities and the strength of what we can capture on our own, realized it was important to reach out to an institutional investor that can support us to capture this huge value. There’s a radical growth about to happen in Africa, and Seamfix wants to pioneer it and ensure that this actually happens.”

With the recent round of funding, the company says it will continue the expansion of its digital ID services.The prospects seem really bright. The funds we have raised will help us to expand to other countries and be able to also perform these integrations. The next thing is for us to keep our heads down and be focused,” says Emewulu.

“We are going to keep the focus; go to the five new markets we need to be present in and execute. But beyond these markets, we are still going to be integrating the relevant databases across Africa, background check services, and many other services that we want to be integrated to our ID switch. We’ll continue our reach-out and work to deliver on the promise we made to the investors. We want to ensure that we deliver value.”

And as Seamfix is bent on capturing the value of the identity market, it says the funder Alitheia IDF Fund shares in the company’s vision of providing digital ID services for everyone.

“We went to Alitheia ADF because they believe in what we believe in. We found chemistry with them and they understand the magnitude of the problem we are working to solve, and they are interested in solving that problem as well.”

“That’s why we are working with them and we are also hoping that through this collaboration, we are going to achieve way more results than we would ordinarily have.”

Equal access to opportunities through identity

Emewulu says while identity is everyone’s right, someone has the responsibility to ensure that right is enjoyed. That is why he believes other important stakeholders in government and industry have a major role to play in making things happen.

“That it [identity] is a right doesn’t mean we’ll just have it. We also believe everybody deserves equal access to opportunities. When governments say they want to ensure equal access to services by their citizens, they are basically saying that they want to ensure that everybody can be properly identified and serviced,” says the Seamfix CEO.

“That’s what we stand for, and we are working to ensure that baseline right for everyone. For me, no African government will be able to grow the way they want and deliver services the way they want without being clear on who they are delivering the services to, their identity and other important details, as well as the nuances to ensure that everyone can be incorporated into the plan of this delivery.”

ID interoperability crucial for continental trade

Asked how important digital ID interoperability is to driving cross border trade on the continent, Emewulu says jokingly: “This is like asking how important is air for us to breathe.”

He then states: “That’s how important it is for data to flow in an integrated economy like the AfCFTA [African Continental Free Trade Area]. I believe digital Identity is something that will underpin that. I believe that as we are opening up to multiple countries, there is a need for somebody to connect all the identities across all these countries – which is what Seamfix is focused on.”

Talking further about their work on interoperability, the CEO says: “We are already delivering an identity switch that will connect all IDs and all the relevant databases across these countries to one common platform such that you can easily verify identity across borders.”

“This is to make sure that if you are dealing or trading with somebody in another location, you want to be clear about who you are dealing with. It’s important that we deal with that and solve that problem head-on.”

Addressing the issue of data protection, the Seamfix CEO says not only do they believe in its importance, they have over the years also earned various certifications which attest to their ability to adequately handle sensitive personal data.

“Seamfix undertook some ISO audit standards such as ISO 27001 (2013 version) on information security. We did ISO 27701 on privacy and information management; ISO 9001 on quality management. We have done retention and surveillance audits multiple times. This is to ensure that our standards are world class so that governments and organizations can trust us,” he says.

Financial inclusion efforts

As a digital identity actor, Emewulu says one of Seamfix’s objectives is to contribute to financial inclusion in Africa. But before then, their primary wish is to see that people have an identity first, and then ensure that the identity is sufficiently protected.

“At the baseline layer, you can’t start even talking of digital or financial inclusion without talking about identity inclusion. That’s the primary thing. You need to include people identity wise, before you can talk of financial inclusion,” he posits.

“If you look at the volume of registrations and identities that have been created using Seamfix’s solutions, a good chunk of it involves women,” he mentions, suggesting there is evidence that many people, especially women, are able to access formal financial services in countries where the company has operations.

In the past couple of years, Seamfix has been involved in Nigeria’s digital identity ride, and the CEO says there are a number of lessons which can inspire similar projects elsewhere.

“There are a lot of lessons. It’s not just from NIMC [ID authority] alone, but also from the way the government created the mandatory ID linkage to services.”

“There’s a lot for many countries to learn from Nigeria where the government created a foundational ID and started linking so many functional parts of the economy to the ID.”

“Seamfix is very excited to engage with any government to share details on how we can support them on this. We are also happy to engage with any major organization in Sub Saharan Africa and in any part of the world to share these learnings.”

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