State House, Freetown, Monday 30 January 2023 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has officially launched the country’s first securitised multi-purpose identification card and identification verification system, saying that civil registration and vital statistics, CRVS, data is critical for development planning and policymaking.
He also thanked development partners for their technical and other consistent support in strengthening and building the capacity of the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) and for promoting new technologies and international best practices.
“As a government, we believe that comprehensive CVRS data is critical for development planning and policymaking, resource mobilisation, effective governance, public service delivery, and inclusive national development as a whole.
“I am pleased that the NCRA has grown over the last four years under the leadership of the current Director General, board, and staff. With the support of partners, the leadership of the NCRA has demonstrated strong-willed diligence in making this day a reality,” he acknowledged.
He added that at the national level, they believed that a biometric, chip-based, multipurpose ID card and ID verification system would serve a number of our imperatives for transparent, effective, inclusive, and sustainable national development.
“That is why it is central to our medium-term national plan; that is why my government invested resources, worked with partners, and provided strong political will and support at the highest levels to achieve this objective today. The Sierra Leone Government and Constrat Systems SL Ltd. collaborated on this ID card project as part of a public-private partnership.
“In consultations leading up to this, I emphasised the importance of putting strong data protection and management measures in place. That is critical for preserving personal rights and liberties within our democracy, and I am pleased that this has been well-considered. In addition, my government has been working with development partners, through the cabinet, to deliver a comprehensive data protection bill to Parliament that meets the best international standards,” he noted.
President Bio added: “With the chip-based biometric ID, banks, forex bureaus, micro-finance institutions, mobile money providers, and other financial service providers, among others, can now easily and effectively carry out the electronic know-your-customer (eKYC) process to authenticate and verify their customers at far lower costs for trusted financial transactions across Sierra Leone”.
“Essentially, more Sierra Leoneans will subsequently have access to a broader range of financial services and affordable banking. There are now real opportunities for us in Sierra Leone to expand financial inclusion and transition to a more digital economy. The benefits of a digital economy are immeasurable,” he assured.
President Julius Maada Bio also emphasised that a digital economy would go a long way to helping eliminate cash hoarding.
“Money laundering, financial fraud, telecommunications fraud, identity fraud, and illicit financial flows may be tracked better in a digital economic space. NIN numbers have helped us effectively administer payroll and eliminate ghost employees and other waste.
“The introduction of this biometric ID card also provides Sierra Leone with an opportunity to transition to a full biometric voter system that ensures that every citizen is granted his or her due right to vote and that every vote cast is fully accounted for within the shortest possible time. Peer countries in the sub-region have successfully reduced voter fraud and other electoral errors with the introduction of full biometric voting systems,” he noted.
The Sustainability and Local Economic Development Cluster Team Lead for the United Nations Development Programme, Tanzila Sankoh, said: “Previously in Sierra Leone, the National Identification System involved several actors, each producing ID cards that are accepted as valid proof of identity when transacting businesses or accessing services. The NCRA was able to embark on a more comprehensive nationwide consultation thanks to a successful partnership with the Embassy of Ireland.
“Sierra Leone qualified for the pilot UN Legal Identity for All Agenda, based on progress made in establishing a legal framework via the National Civil Registration Authority Policy and Act of 2016, and the development of the strategic plan for 2019.
“In a developing country that is opening to new technology, we must be guided against information mismanagement. It is, therefore, laudable for the government of Sierra Leone to put in place a legal framework to manage the securitised and multipurpose ID card and ID verification systems. I am encouraging all stakeholders to take this initiative as an individual and collective responsibility to ensure high uptake of the ID card,” he said.
Resident Representative of ECOWAS in Sierra Leone, Ambassador Harouna Moussa, said: “Today, Sierra Leone has become the sixth member state after Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Benin, and The Gambia to implement the ECOWAS member identification card”.
He noted that that had shown the government of Sierra Leone’s commitment to the vision of ECOWAS’s free movement of persons and free integration in the region, adding that, as a result, he was delighted to see that Sierra Leone was now joining others in the ECOWAS region.
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