H E. President Bio Launched First-Ever Securitized and Multipurpose Biometric ID Cards in Sierra Leone.

First-Ever Securitized, Chip-Based and Multipurpose Identity Cards in Sierra Leone.

President Bio Launches Biometric, Securitized and Multipurpose ID Cards

Monday – January 30 2023

State House, Freetown.

His Excellency the President Dr. Julius Maada Bio has launched the Sierra Leone’s first-ever Biometric, Securitized and Multipurpose National, ECOWAS and Non-National Identity Cards for Sierra Leoneans, ECOWAS member States Citizens and other foreign nationals residing in Sierra Leone.

Accompanied with the biometric IDs, President Bio also launched an Identity Verification Platform/system which will serve as a foundational data source for authentication of citizens and non-citizens personal biometric information at banks, microfinance institutions etc. for the purpose of electronic know your customer (eKYC) and also for credit reference purposes. Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) using functional data to provide public services like vehicle registration, Land and property registration, health care services including foreign Missions will equally leverage on this system to verify and authenticate the true and legal identity of persons who present themselves for such services and other opportunities.  

Speaking during the launch at the State House, President Bio applauded development partners, including the European Union, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, Irish AID, Plan International, and the World Bank for their unwavering support in building and strengthening the country’s Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems housed and managed by the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA).

The President also thanked the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) for their technical support provided over the years in building the capacity of the NCRA and promoting new technologies compliant with not only regional requirements but also in line with international best practices.

President Bio added that the CRVS data is very critical for development planning, policy making, resource mobilisation, effective governance, efficient public service delivery and inclusive national development.

H.E Bio also maintained that the aspirations of the CRVS and ID management initiative is central to the country’s Medium-Term National Development Plan which is why his government has invested considerable resources, worked effectively with partners and provided strong political will and support at the highest levels to achieve this objective.

He further announced that he is pleased with the rapid growth of NCRA in managing an integrated programme of civil registration, vital statistics and identity management over the last four years under the leadership of the current Director General, Board of Authority and staff. “With the support of partners, the leadership of the NCRA has demonstrated strong-will and diligence in making this day a reality,” President Bio stated. “We believe that the biometric chip-based Multipurpose ID Cards and the ID Verification System will serve a number of imperatives for transparent, effective, inclusive, and sustainable national development.” He added.

The timely completion and delivery of this project which is a product of a public-private partnership between the Government of Sierra Leone and Constrat Systems (SL) Limited is highly commendable’’. President Bio applauded the Vendor.

President Bio informed that the National Identification Numbers (NINs) have helped to effectively administer payroll and eliminate ghost employees. He also stated that the introduction of the biometric ID Cards will provide Sierra Leoneans the opportunity to transition to a full biometric voter system that ensures every citizen is granted the due right to vote, and every vote cast is fully accounted for within the shortest possible time.

Presenting an overview of the entire CRVS and ID Management processes in Sierra Leone, the Director General of the National Civil Registration Authority-NCRA, Mohamed Mubashir MASSAQUOI announced that Sierra Leone’s Identity Management system is one of the best in the sub-region in terms of infrastructure and the progressive legal policies and frameworks put in place to guide the initiative.

Mr. MASSAQUOI praised the exemplary leadership of the Government of Sierra Leone under President Julius Maada Bio, and Development partners, including the EU, UNDP, UNICEF, and Irish Aid.

‘‘As enshrined in Section 25 of the NCR Act 2016, the NCRA has signed memoranda of understanding with some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), to facilitate the sharing of personal data on the country’s population’’ DG Massaquoi confirmed this at the State House.

Also, the NCRA has successfully negotiated with the Central Bank of Sierra Leone and other financial institutions, including commercial banks to support them with the “electronic Know Your Customer Facility” as part of efforts to enhance and boost financial inclusion in the country, Mr. MASSAQUOI announced.

The ID Verification Platform according to DG MASSAQUOI will be securely used to access banking and other financial services with amazing ease, like the opening of bank accounts, foreign exchange, remittance services and cash withdrawals from customer’s bank accounts among others.

In the statement of the development partners, – the Sustainability and Local Economic Development Cluster Team Lead of the United Nations Development Programme in Sierra Leone; Madam Tanzila Sankoh said the previous national identification system in the country involved several actors, with each producing ID cards that were accepted as valid proof of identity when transacting businesses or accessing other services.

Madam Tanzila however said that, the NCRA has been able to embark on a more comprehensive nationwide consultation due to a successful partnership with the Embassy of Ireland.

She gladly notified that Sierra Leone has qualified for the pilot UN Legal Identity for All Agenda initiative. This she said was based on the progress made in establishing a legal framework through the national civil registration Policy and the NCR Act of 2016 including the development of a five years strategic plan (2019-2024) in 2019. “It is, therefore, laudable for the Government of Sierra Leone to put in place a legal framework to manage the securitized and multipurpose ID cards and the ID Verification platform/Systems.’’ Said the UNDP team lead.

Sierra Leone became only the sixth member State after Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Benin, and The Gambia, to implement the protocols adopted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State and Heads of Government to promote free movements of people across the West African region, the ECOWAS Resident Representative in Sierra Leone, Ambassador Harouna Moussa mentioned while speaking at the event at the State House in Freetown.

Consequently, Ambassador Moussa applauded the Government of Sierra Leone for its commitment to promoting the vision of the regional bloc’s free movement of persons and free trade integration in the region.

The Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), Prof. Kelfala M. Kallon revealed that banks find it difficult to identify common names of Sierra Leoneans especially when one has defaulted on a loan; thus, credit availability and access to capital by the average Sierra Leonean becomes difficult especially when banks have to spend lots of resources to identify who is before them.

The introduction of the Unique Biometric Identity Cards is expected to improve access to finance in the country, according to the Governor. Prof. Kallon said the Bank of Sierra Leone has put a credit registry together as part of an effort to guide the financial systems as to who are good creditors and those who are bad ones.

In addition, the Bank Governor said it will now be easier for the financial sector to administer the newly-introduced Students Loan Scheme and get rid of defaulters and duplicating names when students go for loans, and also identify defaulters.

“With the digital ID, people in the informal sector are going to be brought into the formal sector,” Prof. Kallon confirmed.

“Experiences and data we get from other countries that have done this, say that a huge amount of Government revenue will come from bringing those people into the formal economy which will reduce the impact of government expenditures on inflation; exchange rate changes etc.” The Governor stated.

He added: “We are fully in support of this. We have pledged in the past, and we will continue to cooperate with the NCRA to make sure what we have here will be the best.”

In his statement, Minister of Internal Affairs; David Panda Noah advanced that every country needs a foundational Identity Management System which will serve as the repository of identity data that feeds all other functional ID systems including immigration, social security scheme, healthcare, police, judiciary and education to name but few. Panda Noah further went on to highlight specific area’s foundational identity management systems support including crime investigation in the police, the risk of terrorism, the judiciary to determine juvenile, child labour etc. and other forms of ascertaining actual and legal identity of people in a country. The Hon. Minister closed his statement by assuring all that Sierra Leone is very much secured and peaceful under the leadership of President Maada Bio.

The Hon. Chief Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa talked around the importance of Identity for Governance and Accountability. He pointed out that, the Government Payroll verification was supported by the Government of Sierra Leone only and was undertaken successfully as a result of the NCRA biometric verification system which has now earned the Government a clean and predictable payroll system. Leveraging on this biometric advantage, other government funded verification exercises were conducted over the years and those exercises have helped to complement Government’s effort in relation to accountability and good governance in the country. The Chief Minister also assured that ‘‘as a Government, we remain committed to reinforcing integrity, through diverse systems including the NCRA Biometric Identity Management system as a way of keeping records of all citizens and other nationals resident in the country for effective national planning and to further ensure data accuracy relating to public officers, so as to enhance integrity in the payroll management and other functional Identity management systems in the country’’.  He affirmed.

The Hon. Chief Minister rounded up by appreciating all the development partners and UN Agencies for their respective support and efforts in making Civil Registration and Identity Management a success in Sierra Leone. ‘‘may I thank you for believing in the Agenda of the New Direction Government of His Excellency the President Brig (Rtd) Dr. Julius Maada Bio’’. He said.

President of the Market Women Association in Sierra Leone, Haja Marie Bob Kande described the benefits of the country’s biometric ECOWAS ID Card for market women as timely. Haja Bob Kandeh said it is especially necessary for those who frequently travel to other countries for trade opportunities with emergency travel certificates which can only be allowed for a single entry. She urged those in the informal sector (especially business women) to get the ECOWAS ID Card to avoid being harassed beyond the country’s borders when they travel elsewhere for trade purposes.

A representative of Constrat Systems (SL) Limited, Sergei Yeliseyev revealed that Sierra Leone is one of the few countries in Africa to develop this technology, beginning a digital era for the country. He said the chip-based biometric Identity Card is at a global standard that identifies and enables people for digital transactions.

Mr. Yeliseyev also highlighted some benefits and features of the securitized and multipurpose ID Cards. He furthered that each of the categories of the ID cards will help the government account for its citizens; development partners to deliver services, and monitor development program outcomes. These according to the Constrat Systems (SL) representative will help businesses and private sector partners like the banks to identify and know their customers including residents when accessing their services as well as other Government services.

The Launched was climax with a symbolic presentation of the Securitized National Identity Card to H.E the President as a demonstration of him being the first to receive a biometric, Securitized and Multipurpose Identity Card in Sierra Leone. Physical Identity Cards of same were giving to the Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, the First Lady of the republic of sierra Leone H. E Fatima Maada Bio and some other senior officials at the State House.  

© IEC Directorate, NCRA

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