Sierra Leone Launches Africa’s First Blockchain ID Platform Designed By Silicon Valley Crowdfunding Platform

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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Sierra Leone’s new blockchain-based digital ID system was launched by President Julius Maada Bio. In the image, Bio addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (AP Photo: Richard Drew)

Sierra Leone has become the first African country to launch a blockchain-enabled digital identification system which can be used to determine citizens’ credit scores and provide access to financial services.

The blockchain platform is a government initiative designed to provide citizens with a formal identity, control over their credit information, and access to digital financial services, according to Devex.

The online system was designed by San Francisco-based crowdfunding platform Kiva, which lends money to entrepreneurs in 80 countries.

Kiva is an international nonprofit, founded in 2005 in San Francisco, with a mission to expand financial access to help underserved communities.  

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More than 75 percent of the Sierra Leone population is unbanked, and the government is hopeful that this blockchain system will boost financial inclusion.

Blockchain ID platform opens access to financial services

Kiva argues that two of the major barriers to accessing financial services in Africa are a lack of formal identification and a lack of verifiable credit history.

The new Sierra Leone system overcomes those challenges by allowing financial institutions capable of providing loans to identify citizens needing access to funds to build credit histories using their fingerprints, Reuters reports.

The lenders can then decide whether or not to offer loans to individuals and how much they qualify to borrow.

The new blockchain system means that people no longer have to present utility bills or other information on their credit history before being able to open a bank account.

Blockchain technology enables records to be linked and secured using cryptography. A national ID system allows for easy access to real-time information on the creditworthiness of people in Sierra Leone, according to Kiva.  

Sierra Leone has a history of embracing blockchain. In January 2018 the country used blockchain technology to count votes during its parliamentary elections. 

The voting system, put in place by Swiss tech firm Agora, contributed to what observers said was a fair and transparent election, according to Quartz.