By Chris Burt

The African Development Bank (AfDB) recently introduced its new fingerprint-embedded Laissez-Passer document at ID4Africa 2017 in Windhoek, Namibia. The travel document for regional development is one of a series of regional projects across the continent with the goal of using digital identity and biometrics to enable cross-border travel.

Another such project, the ECOWAS Biometric Identity Card, has reached the distribution stage in some countries. While the program is in early stages, it has shown potential to speed border crossing while reducing the problem of fake travel documents, Laouali Chaibou, Commissioner for Trade, Customs, Free Movement and Tourism for the ECOWAS Commission told an audience on day two of the annual event in support of universal digital identity for Africans.

While all member states must meet a minimum threshold of security to issue the card, including capturing a fingerprint image, the card also has the capacity to add additional information, to allow its security and use to be extended as the technical capabilities of ECOWAS member states evolve. ECOWAS is supported in the project by a number of international organizations and development agencies, including the World Bank.

The World Bank is working with countries and regional organizations on several biometric identity projects in Africa. Lead Social Protection Strategist Laura Rawlings described the objectives the organization has for identity programs at the national level to the ID4Africa audience.

“We are aiming to support countries to ensure universal access to identification, to also allow for reliable mutual recognition and robust performance based on the issuing of unique numbers, to have a shared foundational platform within a country to provide access to a number of functional applications, and very importantly, as has been spoken about a lot over the past two days, to have a link with civil registration, so that there are breeder documents, and there is a foundation for the unique based on civil registration.”…