Most people in the West take Identification, banking, healthcare, and insurance for granted. Yet several developing countries, especially in Africa, lack official and secure records of identification that prevent their crucial records such as healthcare, insurance, and banking services from national authorities.
Information from the Mo Abraham foundation, however, reveals that only cover half the African population lives in a country where a census has taken place between 2009 and 2018 and only eight African countries have a birth registration system that covers 90 percent of the population, which entails that there are nearly 400 million Africans lacking reliable identification and an unranked population exceeding 600 million people.
In the year 2016, while attending the Yale Young Global Scholars program in technology, Innovation, and entrepreneurship, Victor Mapunga from Zimbabwe and Haardik from India met and perchance they also met again the following year in London at King’s College where they immersed in several technical programs at the European Summer Program of rationality where they established a firm friendship.
In Zimbabwe, whilst trying to open a bank account in 2018, Victor was shocked to come across a lengthy and hectic application form that required several details especially in a country with a deficit in employment and a 90% unemployment rate and where most people exist in an economy which Is informal.
Among the requirements was a payslip, proof of residence and other unrealistic requirements that many Zimbabweans find hard to supply. Victor kept being asked to return with the form for several hours before being able to open a bank account and this was even worse for people from distant rural areas.
Realizing that at the heart of the issue was a lack of identity records, Victor decided to call his friend Haardik to chip in and assist him with technical help and over a few weeks several ideas were at play leading to the establishment of Flex Fin Tx, which gave birth to their flagship product called Flex ID which aims to facilitate the recording of over 400 million digital identities across the African continent using mobile phone technologies.
Flex Fin Tx allows financial institutions, insurance companies, healthcare providers and other governments to gain quick access to people’s personal data so that they can easily attain services. Flex ID allows people to access several services such as bank account registrations, driver’s license renewals or even loan applications without the hassles of having to visit the physical address and through Flex ID people can simply register using USSD code or WhatsApp for free.
Flex ID’s are meant to be tamper-proof and self-sovereign by using Algorand’s BlockChain platform, which secures users’ information to be free from interference by organizations without users’ prior permission, meaning the user information will be totally private and secure.
Through Flex ID, the digital identities of users are stored in IPFS (InterPlanetray File System), and the hashes are put on the Algorand Chain, which provides a guaranteed assurance that the user holds the key to his personal data and information, storage to the credentials linked to users’ digital identities are provided by an app on their phones or through a custodial Wallet provided by the company to those without access to the internet.
By simply proving that they own the corresponding private key to the public key provided on the ledger, users can simply prove ownership of their credentials. The platform Is being established based on standards that were set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for Decentralized Identities and verifiable credentials which will allow interconnectivity with other future service providers, meaning if a person was to relocate to another country or region they would easily transfer the person’s credentials to a different service provider which operates in the new region.
The Flex ID application is an extremely cheap application for companies and governments to run and implement since it’s affordable even for cash-strapped companies that want to build the future.
According to Victor, the capital injections for developing the system were acquired from IBM which offered a $12 000 loan which helped throughout its early stages of development starting 2 years ago in the year 2018. Governments and companies are therefore encouraged to adopt and use this cheap and easy technology since most attempts to imitate it from scratch will be marred by hectic tender processes and hiring of foreign companies which might milk away several millions of dollars from African companies and governments wishing to develop systems like Flex ID.
Victor concluded by saying that Venture capital for start-ups in Africa remains a very serious challenge since the world’s monopoly for capital exists in places like New York, Massachusetts, and California and everyone else Is basically fighting for scraps. He added that there is no Venture Capital locally and Angel Investors are mythic stuff in Zimbabwe adding it has been an extremely tough process but they have managed to buy a Ferrari with the budget of a simple car like a Honda Civic, which says a lot about the resilience of entrepreneurs from markets that are still hypodermic.