Sierra Leone has become the first African country to launch a blockchain national digital identification platform.
The country’s President Julius Maada Bio officially launched the system in the capital Freetown on Wednesday.
This is the first time an African country is implementing such an online credit system designed by a San Francisco-based tech charity called Kiva.
With such a system it becomes easier to identify ordinary citizens seeking loans since accessing their their credit history becomes easier.
The platform will enable financial institutions capable of lending to look up citizens’ credit histories using fingerprints and other biometric data.
Data already available
These data details were collected a few years ago by Sierra Leone’s government to print voter ID cards.
Under the new system prospective borrowers get assigned a digital wallet. Their transactions are then recorded in blockchain to keep user information secure and prevent tampering.
Meet Nancy. First blockchain based identification verification in Africa (allegedly), completed in the presence of President Bio of Sierra Leone.#kiva #kivaprotocol #SierraLeone #digitalfuture #uncdf #MM4P pic.twitter.com/8F0sVvXjLQ
— Ahmed Dermish (@adermish) August 21, 2019
President Maada Bio said at the launch that “This visionary step here today guarantees that Sierra Leoneans are not excluded from … the global digital economy.”
Bio added that his government intends having all banks and microfinance institutions in the country using the system by the end of this year.
Congratulations #SierraLeone. Today you became the first African country to launch a blockchain-enabled digital National identification system. And Nancy from Port Loko first person to use the system. @UNDP @UNCDFMM4P @UNCDF proud to have been part of this history making w/ @Kiva pic.twitter.com/r66tEq2dQI
— UNDP in Sierra Leone (@UNDPSierraLeone) August 21, 2019
Robust financial service
Schan Duff, Kiva’s Vice President of Strategy said “A national identity program here would provide the foundation for the growth of a robust financial services ecosystem.”
Using blockchain, Kiva Protocol’s digital identification system that depends on a technology distributed ledger helps to formalize identification and verify credit history.
”My govt has developed a national data ID platform. I announce with pride that this is Africa’s first blockchain and decentralized national digital ID system. This National digital ID platform that has been developed by the by NCR, with the support of @Kiva” @PresidentBio
— Directorate of Science, Technology & Innovation (@DSTISierraLeone) August 21, 2019
With this new system potential borrowers longer have to resort to using utility bills or seek information on their credit history before opening a bank account.
David Sengeh, chief innovation officer for the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation in Sierra Leone told Devex that “Now, they can walk in and because the government has already done all this work around digital ID they can thumbprint in and use national ID card.
And through Kiva Protocol’s technology, we can enable in two seconds a KYC check to happen which would normally have taken two weeks.”
This a major milestone for Sierra Leone in allowing many more people to participate in the financial sector through a digitized system.