(Freetown, 21st August, 2019)
The National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), the Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation (DSTI), the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) and Kiva has on Wednesday, 21st August 2019 launched Africa’s first Blockchain Digital identity Platform in a well-attended ceremony at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Freetown.
In his welcome address, the Director- General (DG) of NCRA, Mr. Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi, reiterated the announcement made by President Julius Maada Bio at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly on a partnership that will bring together leading technology non-profit organisation, Kiva, the UN Capital Development Fund, UNDP and the Government of Sierra Leone.
Today’s event the DG maintained, is born out of this partnership which is “a bold nouveaux initiative designed to give the country’s seven million population, most of whom have no credit history, or formal identity, access to financial services,”
Mr. Massaquoi further noted that the overarching goal of this impressive initiative is to overly strengthen National Digital Identification, modernise the country’s Credit Reference Bureau and radically transform Sierra Leone’s financial inclusion landscape. He added that the initiative will put an end to paper-based credit, check and promote digital identity reference that ease the burden of time, resources, inconvenience, delays, social exclusion, criminality and impunity characterized with identity fraud in Sierra Leone.
”This is a unique approach by President Bio to leverage the tremendous potential of technology, data science, and artificial intelligence in making data-driven analyses and decisions, and scaling up solutions to society’s problems. This inter-link, with strong policy-making, problem-solving, and innovative application of technology, is beginning to have a transformative effect on the lives of all Sierra Leoneans,” he said.
The UNDP Country representative, Dr. Samuel Doe, said he was excited to join the Government of Sierra Leone through the NCRA to launch Africa’s first Blockchain and Decentralized National Digital Identity platform. He said the United Nation’s keen interest in the digitalized financial inclusion system is to accelerate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
In his statement, the Deputy Bank Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), Mr. Ibrahim Stevens expressed his delight for being part of the entire process and thanked the NCRA and its partners for such a groundbreaking initiative. He maintained that, as the leading Agency in advancing financial sectors and development in Sierra Leone, the BSL is committed to ensuring financial inclusion in Sierra Leone. “We empower unbanked Sierra Leoneans, especially women, Youth and the rural Population, with a digital identity and also having control over their own credit information” the Deputy Governor said.
The Chief Innovation Officer of the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) in the Office of the President at State House, Dr. Monina David Sengeh, described the 21st century as the period of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He mentioned the various strides Sierra Leone has made in terms of innovation to improve good governance which will invariably lead to effective service delivery in the following sectors: Health, Education, Identity Management, Forestry and the holistic approach towards eGovernance. Dr. Sengeh concluded his remarks by expressing his profound gratitude to President Bio for giving young people the latitude and confidence to drive Sierra Leone towards innovative eGovernance system.
The Deputy Minister of Finance Dr. Patricia Laverley, highlighted the benefits of rolling out a Digital Financial platform, making reference to financial integrity dimensions. She submitted that strengthening financial integrity in any country enhances effective implementation of financial policies and regulations which is fundamental to any good economic drive.
Making his keynote address, President Julius Maada Bio noted that he was privileged and honored to be the first African President to achieve such a laudable venture for the people of Sierra Leone. “For the first time in Sierra Leone, there is now a pathway for farmers in rural communities, for instance, to access capital needed to invest in their farms, increase production, and therefore improve their earnings. For women, young people, and persons with disabilities, meaningful financial inclusion is now possible through this new National Digital Identity Platform. They now have an opportunity to engage in entrepreneurship in an increasingly digital economy,” the President submitted.
The President further assured development partners that the details of all residents will be protected and secured. He however urged Sierra Leoneans to comply with the system that has been put in place by the NCRA, noting that, it is user- friendly and meant for all citizens and non-citizen residents in Sierra Leone. “I am proud to note that this new digital identity system is built with clear guidelines on principles of self-sovereignty to protect information from unauthorized access. Ultimately, it is Sierra Leoneans who own their data and it is they who should decide with whom they share that data and how that data is used. Data on every person’s resident in Sierra Leone stored with the NCRA will be protected with strict confidentiality in line with international guidelines and practices,” the President said.
Nancy Gbamoi, a nurse from Port Loko was the first person to open a bank account by assessing her digital ID with her thumb print from the NCRA database. In a live video demonstration, a banker from Apex Bank showed how digital identity platform can be utilized to meet a Know Your Customer (KYC) requirement, which prevents fraud and lets financial institutions verify and authenticate each account holder.
The representative from Kiva, Dr. Schan Duff did a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the strategic framework for financial inclusion in Sierra Leone. Dr. Schan Duff further noted that, there are huge gains and opportunities Sierra Leone stands to benefit if this golden initiative is practiced using the right and key enablers for its implementation.
The Minister of Information and Communications, Mr. Mohamed Rhaman Swaray chaired the launching. He proudly announced that he was the first to chair a ceremonious event of Africa’s first Blockchain and Decentralized National Digital Identity Platform in Sierra Leone.