Chris Burt


The launch of an Open Source API by the Secure Identity Alliance (SIA) could significantly assist in the harmonization of identity schemes by African identity authorities, in one of numerous impactful developments over the past year in the African identity ecosystem explained in the ID4Africa Movement’s annual report for 2018 (PDF).

The volume and intensity of stakeholder engagement is identified as a highlight of the Movement’s 4th annual meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, with more than 1500 delegates from 41 African countries and nearly as many from elsewhere around the world, representing 427 public and private sector organizations. Other highlights identified in the report include the success of a range of new initiatives related to the functioning of the movement itself or its engagement with identity stakeholders in Africa and around the world.

ID4Africa developed a new African Delegate Nomination Program this year to increase Pan-African and sectoral accessibility and inclusiveness. The Management Information System (MIS) basically applies a quota policy to the distribution of financial support for delegates to attend the Movement’s annual meeting. The process also allowed the organization to more effectively seek support for delegates from development agencies, and the World Bank sponsored the participation of more than 40 delegates in 2018.

The DigiHealth symposium was received enthusiastically, and will be followed up with a second edition in 2019. While significant interest in the topic was anticipated based on the pilot session held in 2017, the DigiHealth sessions attracted more participants than other sessions running in parallel, and made clear that the absence of reliable identification systems for healthcare in Africa is causing numerous problems.

The campaign for International Identity Day was launched at ID4Africa’s Annual Meeting to raise global awareness of UN Sustainable Development Goal 16:9 to provide legal identity for all by 2030. More than 1500 signatures were collected for a petition in support of the campaign, which was also endorsed by Nigeria’s National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). The campaign is expected to take years, but was recently joined by the European Association for Biometrics (EAB) and the SIA.

The inaugural publication of the Almanac as a resource was met with overwhelming demand, as the 1250 copies which were published were all distributed on the first day of the three-day event, bolstering plans to produce an annual issue. Published in both English and French, with contributions from more than 30 organizations, the Almanac is intended to serve as a year-round resource for delegates and their colleagues.

The report also notes the foundations of the movement have been reinforced with the growth of the ID4Africa Ambassador program. The number of Ambassadors grew from 22 in 2017 to 29 in 2018, representing more than 75 percent of the population of Africa.

“ID4Africa has become a must attend event in the yearly calendar for most African countries,” said Mory Camara of Guinea’s ANGEIE in post-event feedback. “This initiative goes beyond the usual speeches and photo opportunities to actually fostering communication and real collaboration between and amongst African peers.”

The report also reviews 25 of the key insights gained as part of the institutionalized knowledge flow through various channels of engagement. Lessons learned from the event sessions, Ambassadors, and annual survey include the identity application priorities, preferred biometric modalities, and key institutional structure considerations.

Developments since the end of the annual event are also reviewed in the report, including UNICEF Associate Director and Chief of Child Protection Cornelius Williams joining the ID4Africa Board of Advisors, and the ongoing effort to apply biometric identification to infants.

ID4Africa Executive Chairman Dr. Joseph J. Atick endorsed the SIA’s Industry Code of Conduct, and ID4Africa joined the SIA as an Advisory Observer in November 2017. Following ID4Africa 2018, the SIA announced an initiative to launch an Open Source API to eliminate vendor lock-in — which has long been identified by ID4Africa participants as one of the main challenges faced by African government identity programs — and reduce costs for government, and the ID4Africa Board of Advisors and General Secretariat have endorsed the initiative as a key enabler and major step towards harmonizing identity schemes across Africa. With Harmonization of Identity Schemes serving as the theme for ID4Africa 2018, this development will surely be regarded closely by identity stakeholders across the continent ahead of ID4Africa 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.