In the United States, when a child is born, he/she is assigned a number. This is the social security number (SSN). That number follows the child till death. That number is unique and captures the child’s life history.
In Africa, there is no effective system of identifying citizens. Nigeria has tried many national ID projects and failed. In Kenya, the result is the same. Fraud, lack of records; nothing has worked for ID projects in Africa. Even when birth certificates are mandated, they are not big deals. Many are born without being registered. Even if you do, does it really work?
If Africa asks my opinion, I will tell them that it would be a waste of time and money doing the ID project the ways they have approached it. It is already too late to start any national ID project based on photos and cards.
Simply, I will introduce biometric system where all the people will be scanned and a national database will be built from it. In that way, you will zero out the fraud along with multiple registrations and identifications.
This is going to be effective as we can just do fingerprints and forget the more sophisticated retina. In short, if you can do this, banking will come out better off. Forget all the checks and signatures. People will sign with their fingerprints and the national fingerprint ID can be uploaded to all the major banks and governments can service her citizens and get the unbanked banked. Loans can be disbursed with more efficiency since banks can easily validate the applicants.
A simple query on the system, financial related information about the applicant is on your screen.
But the big question is this: how can you implement such a system when there is no electricity. And that is why we must stop wasting money on this National ID exercise and its usual ritual. If you need electricity before you can pursue biometric alternative, fix the electricity before talking about National ID.
I proposed this strategy in Nigeria during a seminar in 2001. My plan was direct; get the fingerprints, have national data centers across the regions, synchronize them across the state, allow big banks to access them, issue terminals to shops for authentication; and get your citizens doing business with ease and freedom.
It is time Africa begins to use technology to solve all these problems. Biometric system is here to help it identify and identify its people effectively. That waste of card ID system must stop.