In Kenya, National Identity Cards are issued in accordance with the Registration of Persons Act Cap 107. Kenyan Citizens are under an obligation to apply for an identity card once they attain the required age (18). The Registration of Persons Act provides for the requisite documents, which are used to proof citizenship. These include a birth certificate or age assessment certificate issued by government medical officer or a baptismal certificate issued by a minister of a recognized religious organization, further applicants should present identity cards of their parents in the instance where they acquired citizen by birth.
Identity cards contain the name of the holder, date of birth, place of application (which in most instances is the domicile of their parents), and an identity card number all of which should be handled with the highest level of secrecy.
However, that is not the case. The government and all relevant stake holders have defaulted on their duty of informing the citizens on the dangers that come with reckless use or misuse of identity cards, and the identity card number. This situation has been worsened by the requirement of M-PESA ( a mobile money transfer platform run by Safaricom) and Airtel Money ( a mobile money transfer platform run by Airtel Kenya) that all users present their identity cards to agents as proof of ownership. The goal here is to avoid cases of impersonation.
While this may seem to be an effective way of curbing impersonation, M-Pesa and Airtel Money expose their customers to major risks of identity theft. Identity theft is defined to be the deliberate use of someone else’s identity, usually as a method to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit and other benefits in the impersonated person’s name.
Armed with the details of a persons identity card, it is easy to gain access to the finances of people. Most financial institutions in Kenya including mobile money platforms ask for information contained on the identity card as proof of ownership. This is in the event that a customer is attempting to access financial services remotely, upon giving the correct details as contained in the identity card identity thieves gain access to your finances.
Jurisprudence on identity theft in Kenya is yet to develop, and so is the ability of law enforcement officers to curb the menace. As such, Ignorant Kenyans are left at the mercy of unscrupulous identity thieves.
In light of the foregoing, it is imperative that all financial institutions in Kenya take reasonable measures of curing the looming identity theft crisis. A viable solution would be to replace the demand for identity cards with biometrics.