Digital Identity - Africa

Digital identity in Africa: Legacy or Leapfrog?

SICPA proposes inclusive solutions for all

SICPA will present new insights on digital identity solutions this week in Johannesburg at ID4Africa 2019, Africa’s leading identity conference. SICPA has a long history of developing trusted cutting-edge personal identity products, brands and services that are used by governments, organisations and people worldwide. SICPA’s latest observations on disruptive innovation in the identity field aim to support the ID4Africa Movement’s goal of getting legal identity right, from the start, and ensuring that no one is left outside the legal identity ecosystem. 

« The rapid growth of digital technology is reshaping every aspect of people’s lives » Dr Catherine Fankhauser, Director, Identity Security Solutions at SICPA

"Robust and trusted digital identity systems are an opportunity to provide the most vulnerable with access to essential services and drive socio-economic progress across Africa. SICPA is partnering with others to propose innovative and secure digital identity systems that governments and people can trust and will help build a better and safer world."

An estimated one billion people globally, including around 500 million in Africa, have no way to officially prove their identity. Their ‘invisibility’ means that they miss out on legal, economic and social rights and opportunities, including access to basic health and education services. Disparities between men and women, between rural and urban dwellers and due to age, low income, disability, poor education or ethnic group can lead to a life-long digital divide for millions of people.

« Inclusivity lies at the heart of development of a ‘good’ digital identity » Bart Suichies, Head of Digital and Software at SICPA

 “In some countries, new digital identity systems may leapfrog existing weak or missing physical systems, as has happened with mobile phone technology.  In others, digital identity systems may sit alongside existing physical legacy systems.  We have a fresh opportunity to make sure that no one is left behind.” 


How can the past and future merge to create an inclusive solution for all? In 2018, the World Economic Forum defined five ingredients for a ‘good’ digital identity: fit for purpose, useful, inclusive, offers choice, secure.  SICPA believes that a key factor for inclusivity is ensuring the coexistence of the digital and the physical and integrating digital and physical systems on and offline.


Governments have a leadership role to play in establishing a national regulatory framework for digital identity that is grounded in social inclusion.  The development of robust and secure digital identity systems will also depend on several other factors: an ecosystem that is open and interoperable across borders, trusted collaboration between the public and private sectors, increased government investment in training and information technology and a user-centric approach.