October 7, 2020

Government must ensure citizens have official identity for economic viability — Experts

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By Princewill Ekwujuru

Experts in tech and data management have said that concerted efforts must be made by government to ensure that all citizens have an official identity, especially the economically challenged.

This recommendation comes on the heels of data from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which showed that the agency’s database has captured only about 42million,out of approximately 200 million citizens and residents in Nigeria.

Co-Founder/Chief Executive Officer of VerifyMe Nigeria, Esigie Aguele, made the charge at the recently concluded Digital Identity Matters webinar held to commemorate the second edition of the International ID-Day in Nigeria.

Noting that identity was a core issue in people’s lives, Aguele said: “An effective digital identity system is a key component to transforming the informal sector and providing growth opportunities for businesses. As a developing nation, the focus right now should be on social and financial inclusion so people who are not documented can get access to services. With digital IDs, these populations can grow into small and medium-sized businesses able to access microcredits, small loans and insurance to scale even further.”

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“Let’s take the fisherman who is most likely in the informal business demographic. His incentive may be to grow his business and make more money. Having become digitized, he can increase the types of payments he can collect because not everybody deals in cash. He can also take his business to areas where he is not physically present, and now he is no longer a person-to-person business. Maybe, he even wants to buy a bigger boat to get more fish, so he needs a loan. These are all financial incentives for him to get into the digital economy.”

“There is also the social inclusion incentive which relates to government social protection and social investment programmes. These may be in the form of education for the fisherman’s children,” he added.

According to the Group Managing Director/CEO, Interswitch, Mitchell Elegbe: “The fundamental approach would be to segment the population and develop an appropriate incentive for each group. Due to COVID-19, I had to transfer money to a meat seller because he refused to take cash. Money was the incentive for the meat seller to get a bank account. However, it’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all. If the government says it will begin paying Nigerians who don’t have jobs but that they need a NIN to qualify, many people within that category will come forward to register. Once we have this mindset, that it comes down to creating incentives, I believe more people will be drawn into the system.”

The Digital Identity Matters webinar was sponsored by VerifyMe Nigeria, a leading digital identity and Know-Your-Customer (KYC) technology company creating trusted identities for the African markets, in partnership with TechCabal, a future-focused publication focusing on African technology and innovation.