Nigeria and Togo, two West African nations, are leveraging their biometric digital ID systems to streamline and enhance government loan programs. In Nigeria, the federal government recently announced that applicants for student loans will need to provide their National Identification Number (NIN), a key component of the country’s digital ID system. Similarly, officials in Togo are utilizing information from their biometric citizen registry to monitor and identify individuals who default on government-led financial inclusion initiatives.
NIN and BVN Requirements for Nigerian Student Loans
Akintunde Sawyerr, the executive secretary of the Students Loans Board, revealed that all applicants for student loans in Nigeria must furnish biographic and biometric details, including their NIN and a biometric Bank Verification Number (BVN). The NIN verifies the applicant’s Nigerian citizenship, while the BVN facilitates financial inclusion by linking each loan recipient to a bank account. A dedicated online portal has been established to streamline the loan application process, promising full automation to enhance efficiency and transparency.
Last November, a former president of the National Association of Nigerian Students advocated for the inclusion of the NIN requirement to bolster transparency in the student loan application process, reflecting a broader push for improved governance and accountability.
Togo’s Utilization of Biometric ID for Financial Inclusion
Under Togo’s National Inclusive Finance Fund (FNFI), defaulting loan recipients face restrictions on securing future loans, regardless of whether they switch banks. The FNFI employs facial recognition technology to flag individuals with outstanding loan obligations, maintaining a comprehensive biometric database to identify defaulters across financial institutions. The successful pilot phase of the FNFI, spanning two years and granting over 3,000 loans, underscores Togo’s commitment to innovative solutions for financial inclusion.
Assih Mazamesso, Togo’s Minister of Financial Inclusion and Organization of the Informal Sector, highlights the efficacy of the new customer database, emphasizing that individuals listed as loan defaulters will be automatically identified through facial recognition technology when seeking additional loans from microfinance institutions.
Togo’s proactive adoption of technological solutions for financial inclusion, exemplified by its welfare payment initiatives during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, underscores the nation’s commitment to leveraging technology for social and economic progress.