IDENTITY MANAGEMENT IN AFRICA: WHAT IS AND WHAT ISN’T.

By Emmanuel Adeyemo

THE BACKGROUND

Identity is the most important aspect of a being in modern society. However, in Africa, we still find it difficult to identify who is who because of the lack of strong foundational identity systems which has mostly led to the rapid increase of disconnected functional registers. There are countries with relatively advanced systems in terms of coverage and cogency, other countries have average levels of development while there are some with non-existent identity systems.

“Identity Management is essential for national development and fulfilment of individual rights and opportunities”

The central question is?

The ability to reveal one’s identity is important to completely partake in society and exercise one’s rights and privileges. It is a key empowering influence for combating poverty and accomplishing an expansive scope of other advancement results by expanding access to education, financial services, healthcare, social protection, and political processes.

Current State of Identity Management in Africa

While Africa is beginning to wake up to the importance of having a strong ID management system, not much has been achieved in terms of implementation. An estimated 1 billion persons in the world do not currently have proper means of identification according to the World Bank Group Identification for Development Initiative report in 2018; Middle East Africa, North-Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa combine 56% of the total population of people without proper means of identification. Only five African countries — Botswana, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia and Rwanda — have advanced means of identification.

It is important to note that there has been a significant impact made by African countries in the last 5 years to advance and create stable Identity Management Systems.

What African Countries Must do to Change the Narrative

More Attention must be paid to Implementation.

1. Take Implementation Seriously

In order for us to quickly meet up with the rest of the world, we must look for the best possible implementation that takes the shortest possible time to develop. African countries continue to lose revenue because they fail to implement ID management services in the shortest possible time. The ROI on this project is huge when we compare how all aspects of the economy will quickly change and the level of trust it would build in the country.

2. Reform Legal and Administrative Frameworks

This can be achieved by actualizing global rules for privacy and protection of information (e.g., ECOWAS or OECD structures) and creating clear lines of authority for identification, and refreshing legitimate necessities and authoritative techniques to lessen barriers to access.

3. Harmonize and Modernize Identity Systems

By engaging national identity organizing agencies or specialists; adopting a holistic way to deal with Identity Management; modernizing civil registries; and getting ready for global interoperability.

4. Strong Commitment

African Countries must be intentional and committed to building identification systems. This would reflect in the plans built for inclusive national development and e-Governance.

5. Seek for Corporate Financing & PPPs

Various options for financing identification systems must be sought and government must ensure that cost isn’t a burden towards the development of an Identification system; taking into account potential long-term savings from improvements to the system (e.g., increased tax collection, rationalized wage bills, reduced program leakage, etc.).

6. Create Verification and Authentication Channels

Identification systems are foundational database they cannot just be gathered and not used, they must follow this following steps;

 COLLECT → STORE → USE

  • Collects the unique identity of all people, using biometric technologies, into electronic profiles, by mobilizing nationwide enrolment.
  • Stores information, and builds an electronic registry of unique identities of all people in the country. In addition, the authority establishes easy and standard interfaces to this national identity registry.
  • Promotes the use of the digital identity, by optionally offering an identity credential.

7. Policy Formulation and Strong Institutional Arrangements

Governments are to define long term vision and strategy, secure high-level political support and build consensus internally of the viability of this project. Also, define the clear allocation of responsibilities, define who is approving what and when and who is promoting the adoption of a National Identity.

Importance of a Proper Identity Management System to any Nation

To reduce poverty and improve livelihoods through enhanced access to services.

By being able to prove their identity, individuals are empowered to exercise their rights and access basic financial, health, and social support services for which identification is often a prerequisite.

To strengthen governance and the effectiveness of public administration.

Governments that are able to build or interconnect population databases and verify the eligibility of citizens and residents can strengthen access to certain services, such as government to person (G2P) payments, which can enhance governance, reduce waste, and streamline service delivery.

To generate reliable and continuous data for progress measurement and informed-policy-making.

Civil registration and identification systems are a critical source of vital statistics and demographic information, which in turn provides essential evidence to support social.

To enable financial inclusion.

Banks would not ask for KYC information again as it has been captured bin the National ID this will ensure that more people can now open accounts.

To foster gender equality.

Birth and marriage registration can help enforce a minimum age of marriage legislation and so help combat child marriage. Registration and legal proof of identity contribute to women’s’ ability to inherit property and claim their property rights in the event of marriage dissolution or widowhood.

To improve access to quality health services.

Increased access to health services and universal coverage requires countries to identify the beneficiaries. Additionally, more accurate vital statistics support efforts to better monitor health targets (e.g. under-five mortality rate, maternal mortality ratio) and better track the provision of care (such as vaccinations, HIV/AIDs and TB treatment).

To improve access to social safety needs.

Accurate identification of the poor and vulnerable enables efficient, well-coordinated social protection programs (including those for humanitarian and emergency relief) as well as cost-effective, secure, and convenient digital transfers.

What is to come?

Africa can move to the next level as quickly as possible if we are deliberate and intentional about Identity Management. From our analysis which a lot of you might not agree with, Africa in the next decade would have finished establishing its own Identity Management systems. Current happenings of COVID-19 pandemic have also raised this awareness and need for the government to be more proactive towards identity management. In order to fight a pandemic, one must ensure that there are proper identity management systems for easier identification and tracking.

Nigeria and the rest of Africa are already pushing towards establishing a proper advance Identification Management System. The World Bank just recently approved a loan request by Nigeria to strengthen her Digital Identification for Development Project and committed USD $115,000,000 million to the entire project.

What can we offer?

Seamfix as a leading Identity Management company in Nigeria is willing to consult and help implement strong Identity Management Systems for any country that wishes to implement one.

“Lack of proper identity management is a worse pandemic than virus outbreak. While it doesn’t take life suddenly, it strangles a country, feeds on its development and ensures that the country and it’s people never develop, both economically and socially.”


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