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Smile Identity secures $7m for identity verification across Africa

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Smile Identity, a company that provides identity verification, on Thursday announced that it had secured US$7 million in Series A funding to pursue its mission of making the process easy for Africans, by unifying online presence and Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance infrastructure across Africa.

Ashiwel Okang, Head of Marketing Smile Identity, in a statement in Lagos said the investment is the largest ever made into an African–focused identity verification company, and it is important for a number of reasons.

“In Africa, identity is not just a risk and compliance function, it is a key building block for commerce. Knowing that you can trust the other party allows you to do business offline and online; identity is essential in accessing financial accounts, social services, loans, SIM cards, and property.

“All of these activities and more are either moving online or have already done so in pursuit of consumers. Within the next 10 years, 16% of the world’s Internet users will reside in Africa. For many businesses, this presents a new channel to enable rapid scaling, and an enormous opportunity for growth.

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“The World Bank estimates that the Internet economy contributed US$115 billion to Africa’s economy in 2020, with the potential to grow six fold to more than US$700 billion by 2050. But this is only possible if the enabling infrastructure is built,“ he said.

Okang said that an estimated 500 million Africans (roughly 1 in 3) still struggle to prove their identity in order to gain access to services, and to take advantage of the opportunities the Internet economy provides.

“Africans spend an inordinate amount of time trying to verify their identities when travelling or doing business, even when they hold formal IDs. This is a preventable waste of time and a hindrance to economic activity.

“Thankfuly, things are changing. Building on the good work that forward-thinking governments and nonprofits are already doing, Smile Identity is building a technology layer that makes Africa’s new and old identity systems accessible and useful for the next generation of African technology companies, while maintaining best in class security and enabling local consent and compliance standards.

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“At Smile Identity, we believe one of the keys to unlocking Africa’s inherent potential is universal digital identity. Solving this will lead to faster economic growth for Africa.

“This is why our new round of funding is so important. This new capital will help us expand into more markets, add support for more ID types, build custom consent layers compatible with local data privacy legislation, support users without smart-phones, and hire more Engineers across Africa to help us achieve our vision.

“All across the continent, from Lagos to Kampala, and from Cairo to Cape Town, we are seeing a rising wave of African startups built by Africans for Africa begin to gain momentum as they take on some of the continent’s toughest challenges. These startups are betting on the massive potential of Africa, and at Smile Identity, we are building for them,“ he noted.

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He said that the Internet economy in Africa runs on trust like elsewhere, and Smile Identity is building its backbone; facilitating an ecosystem of trusted relationships between businesses and consumers, and standardizing identity verification across the continent by providing a simple, highly effective, Africa-focused identity solution.

“Our platform combines identity validation with proprietary face verification and aliveness checks to support non-surveillance, consent-based financial inclusion and access.

“At Smile Identity, we believe that any African should be able to easily prove their identity, anywhere in the world and that your access to a modern digital lifestyle should not depend on the origin of your ID Card or IP address,” he said.

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