By Emmanuel Elebeke

From available statistics, over half a billion people living in Africa do not have reliable means of identification. A recent report from the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative, FIGI says out of the one billion people lacking reliable means of identification globally, half of the number reside in Africa.  The report corresponds with the World Bank’s 2017 Global Forex Survey which discovered that lack of documentation was the primary barrier to access to financial services by 26 per cent of unbanked people in low-income countries.


The Senior Financial Sector Specialist at the World Bank, Sharmista Appaya, who explained this, said that this constitutes major barrier to their inclusion in formal systems.

Appaya, who is the co-chair of the FIGI Working Group, said they are studying the relationship between Digital identification, DID, and financial inclusion to develop relevant policy recommendations.

FIGI is a three-year programme of collective action led by ITU, the World Bank Group and the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructure, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It aims at advancing research in digital finance and accelerating financial inclusion in developing countries.

Appaya stated: ”A lack of reliable, unique ID is a major barrier to inclusion in formal systems of all kinds, including the financial system.”

ID as a foundation for devt

According to the study, key to the pursuit of development goals across a wide range of sectors, with healthcare, education and financial services among the best-known examples, is proper identification process.

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It contended that the expansion of ID programs is a specific target of the UN Sustainable Development goals, SDGs, calling for UN member-states to “provide legal identity for all, including birth registration” by 2030.

The report further revealed that at least 10 of the 17 SDGs will require an enabling foundation of coherent ID programs.

The World Bank’s Identification for Development, ID4D programme plays a leading role in global efforts to stimulate the introduction of reliable, unique ID.

According to Appaya: “The World Bank’s ID4D programme is trying to solve a universal problem, addressing the basic challenges surrounding ID.

He said: “In FIGI, however, our focus is very much how ID relates to access to financial services.

“ID has many characteristics. But what we are seeing is that three characteristics are crucial in enabling access to financial services: ID should have a legal basis, be unique, and have the ability to exist in a digital format.”

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