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African Nations Continue to Make Progress With ID Security, But Much Work Is Still Needed

Team of African Businesspeople

According to the World Bank, approximately 1 billion people worldwide were unable to prove their identity in its 2018 report. Half of those people reside in Africa. The challenges faced by these people are immense. Without proper identification, they could lose access to employment opportunities, healthcare, government services, and more. 

Since this report, it was noted that nearly every stable African country has had some kind of biometric ID system put in place, with South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria leading the way. South Africa’s Smart ID card uses tactile engraving, optically variable features, and invisible features that become apparent under ultraviolet light.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has also been a leader in ID security when it started collecting information on 2.4 million children in an effort to produce a more robust and accurate birth certificate program while also making new and secure ID cards as the country emerged from a dictatorship in the early 2000s, according to Barron’s

Forgery-proof documents in DRC include visible, non-visible, and forensic features for student ID cards, driver’s licenses, and voter identification documents.

Africa Still Faces ID Security Challenges Even With Robust Biometric Programs

Even with the implementation of these new biometric systems and robust ID programs, which offer an excellent start and are part of a larger push to have a continent-wide digital transformation, African nations continue to face challenges with ID programs. Some systems, like those in Cameroon, offer a hybrid ID system that combines an ID card and biometrics. Data protection and privacy issues are present, according to Al Jazeera. If some systems break down in rural or underserved areas, biometric systems may not work properly to ensure someone’s identity is attributed correctly. There are dangers of cyberattacks and fraud. 

Even with a hybrid system in place, criminals have been increasing their fraud attacks aimed at national IDs, according to Business Insider in January 2024. South Africa’s national ID program had a whopping 34% attempted fraud rate on its Green Book national ID, the highest of any developed nation. Tech Central states that 60% of the most vulnerable documents in Africa were national IDs.

The fraud report, compiled by SmileID, doesn’t just stop at physical IDs. Criminals are also finding ways to attack the biometric portions of Africa’s secure ID programs.  From 2019 to 2023, the biometric and document fraud rate peaked at 17% in December 2023, indicating that attacks on Africa’s ID systems are increasing. SmileID studied 100 million identity verification attempts from 2019 to 2023 for its report.

Solutions for Africa’s ID Security Challenges 

As with any digital tools, solutions are two-fold for Africa’s ID security challenges. Nations must provide their citizens with secure and accurate ways to identify themselves while preventing fraud. It will take capital investments, which can come from private investors and organizations like the World Bank.

Beyond the issue of funding these initiatives, African governments must rely on trusted vendors to produce digital and physical assets that can properly safeguard the information of people carrying ID cards. Organizations and events, such as ID4 and ID4 Africa, bring together stakeholders, experts, and vendors to discuss ID security solutions and challenges facing the continent.  

Angstrom Technologies, Inc., has been leading the way with advanced optically variable pigments (color-changing inks or optically variable inks) and other custom-formulated inks as part of a layered security approach for driver’s licenses and identification documents for more than 15 years, and we’ve been advancing fluorescence and pigments since 1983. We’re able to provide these products and services throughout Africa through our advanced technology and implementation.

Contact us or call 859-282-0020 to talk to our team. 

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