While in recent weeks the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led to the disabling of biometric systems based on fears of spreading the virus, more recently opportunities have arisen for private companies. This week we see large-scale projects continuing with the World Bank’s WURI program across ECOWAS states. Meanwhile in East Africa, activists in Malawi are demanding an audit of what they see as the same technological set up for a re-run of the election as was used in the initial poll in May 2019 – a poll that was hyped as Malawi’s first biometric election. Biometric technology is being put to broader use in Nigeria, as a way to tackle fraud in charitable giving, likewise in Ghana for mobile money transfers.
Nigeria: COVID-19 charitable giving uses BVNs to reduce fraud
Tech workers have created crowdfunding sites to raise money for those struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic and are using biometric banking details as a way to prevent fraud, reports Reuters.
A team of software engineer volunteers created the site Angels Among Us which matches donors and recipients. It has facilitated over 2 million naira ($5,128) in donations. The site uses biometric bank verification numbers (BVNs) to help verify the situation of the recipients.
Another site, We Are Together, has raised over 17 million naira ($47,000) which was distributed to 1,739 recipients.
According to the report, an African Union study warns that 20 million jobs are at risk in Africa. This is coupled with rapidly increasing food costs.
West Africa: Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger join WURI ID system
The World Bank approved $273 million of International Development Association financing to bring Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger into the West Africa Unique Identification for Regional Integration and Inclusion (WURI) Program, according to a release by the bank.
The program aims to build foundational ID systems that are inclusive of nationals and residents across ECOWAS states to help people access services. The four new countries join Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire in the $395m project.
“In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, identifying and providing social protection to those employed in the informal sector, who are not covered by any program but are vulnerable and may slip into poverty, has become more critical than ever,” says Dena Ringold, World Bank Africa regional director for Human Development, according to the release, “The WURI program can support social insurance systems for the informal sector, that are interoperable with social registries and build regionally on foundational identification platforms.”
Malawi: People power movement calls for electoral audit ahead of poll re-run
Citizens for Transformation (CFT) is demanding an audit of the electoral management system and firing of the chief of the National Registration Bureau, ahead of the July 2 presidential re-run, reports The Nyasa Times.
Malawi’s first biometric election was held in May 2019 but the result was finally annulled by a panel of judges in February 2020 due to widespread evidence of rigging.
Before Malawians go back to the polls, the head or ‘commander-in-chief’ of CFT, human rights activist Timothy Mtambo who recently left the leadership of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition to create the political movement, is demanding a thorough audit of the technological side of the new poll. He argues that it is the same system as in the annulled election.
Ghana: Could biometrics solve the mobile money fraud problem?
Mobile money fraud is highly problematic in Ghana and an issue in which people are beginning to believe operators are complicit, writes Ad Julian Mawuli for tech aggregator platform jbKlutse, and who believes biometric verification could be a solution. Biometric registration of SIM cards, if properly controlled with a new exercise, could be the tool needed to tackle a persistent issue. Mawuli notes the network MTN as the most associated with mobile money fraud, though MTN has tried various campaigns to raise awareness among users.
News in Brief & Updates
In brief – Low-income Countries: ID4Africa’s Knowledge Hub hosts a summary of a survey on ID ownership, use and barriers in low-income countries conducted by the World Bank’s ID4D Initiative and the Global Findex Team. One of the main findings is that factors such as employment and marriage status tend to be associated with higher rates of ID ownership, which in turn is associated with much higher rates of financial account and mobile phone ownership.
In brief – South Africa: employers must take measures to ensure biometrics systems are disabled or made ‘COVID-19 proof’ according to a government order, as part of preparations for people returning to work as the coronavirus lockdown is eased.
Update – Nigeria: Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria alleges plans to cut salaries and benefits, calls for biometric ID entry cards to be re-issued to port workers.
In brief – Kenya: Following last year’s biometric survey to determine ghost workers and develop an understanding of civil service staff profiles which revealed that over half of Nairobi’s City Hall staff were ‘old’ at over 50, the recently-formed Nairobi Metropolitan Services is to appoint 1,000 new, younger enforcement staff after redeploying 800 enforcement officers from City Hall.
In brief – South Sudan: The International Organization for Migration and World Food Programme conducted biometric registration in Unity’s Leer County from September to December 2019, covering 39,920 individuals in 9,276 households. 17 percent were returnees and 2 percent were internally displaced persons.