Somalia launches electronic Identity Card

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is issued with an ID card as part of the roll out of the new electronic national ID.

Photo credit: Villa Somalia

Somalia is attempting its national identity card system to establish a central data base of unique numbers for its citizens for the first time in three decades.

On September 16, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud received his national identity card while in Dusamareb town in Central Somalia, about 511 km north of Mogadishu, on Saturday. It was a symbolic ceremony that indicates desire to pool and know the size of the country’s adults, a missing link in 33 years.

Mohamud who has been in parts of Central Somalia for over a month, leading military operations against the extremist group Al-Shabaab, managed to take part in two-day conference in Mogadishu marking the official launching of the National Identification, via a video link. 

Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre who presided the conference held at Afasyioni Hall inside the perimeter of Aden Abdulle International Airport on September 16-17 was honoured to receive his ID. 

“Today’s event represents a grand day for Somalia as we finally lay the foundations of a reliable and all-inclusive national identification system that is recognised across the world,” Barre remarked.

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud gets his biometric data recorded for issuance of the new electronic national ID that is being rolled out in the country.

Photo credit: Villa Somalia

Organised by Somalia’s National Identification & Registration Authority (NIRA), the conference introduced Somalia to digital identity system, over three decades after the identification system collapsed with the military regime in early 1990s.

Barre argued that identification of citizens will contribute to the fighting against threat to security, terrorism and identity fraud. 

“The system being introduced will improve our businesses and performance of our economy, our banks, communication and Hawala money transfer systems.”

“It will severely deal with terror networks and the fight against extremism.”  

The United Nations Special Representative for Somalia, Catriona Laing, was one of the high-profile diplomats who attended the inauguration of the Somali National ID Conference. 

Laing commended Somali government for fore fronting the initiative she viewed as noble and emphasised the potential of the National ID system in strengthening good governance.

“The system propels both private and financial sector growth,” the SRSG Laing stated.  

The project has been sponsored by the World Bank and its Country Manager for Somalia Kristina Svensson says the launch is significant progress made in establishing an inclusive and trustworthy national identification system for Somalia. 

“I greatly feel optimism that the national ID will help in the fight against the Al Shabaab terror group,” Svensson remarked. 

Somalia’s main database for citizens collapsed as Somalia fell among warlords after they defeated the military regime of Siad Barre.

Most of the related institutions are now just being rebuilt with financial and technical support from development partners.

Recently, the country established its first statistics agency in three decades which will also be expected to finally conduct census and know the size of adults in the country.

But a lack of a single form of trusted identification has meant that Somalis can’t even use their formal names consistently, enabling crimes such as terrorism to thrive.