A start-up called Torche Africa is trying to revolutionize the payment infrastructure in Nigeria. To that end, the company is trying to replace the current system with a biometric one that is modeled after India’s Aadhaar program.
The problem, according to Torche co-founder Sisan Dorsu, is that Nigeria’s payment network is neither convenient nor inclusive. The country’s mobile ecosystem is expanding, but it is not yet fully stable across the entire country. As a result, paying for something at the point of sale can be frustrating and time-consuming, since customers have to wait for a steady signal. By the same token, many people do not have a smartphone, and therefore cannot participate in a payment system that relies on apps and mobile connections.
Dorsu believes that biometrics offers a potential solution to that problem, since the technology gives people a way to prove their identity in virtually any situation. Most notably, a biometric scan can be used to authorize a financial transaction, whether at the point of sale or when sending funds to someone in another country.
Of course, building a program of that scale is extremely challenging. Torche is nevertheless quite optimistic, and is hoping to provide coverage for 50,000 merchants in Nigeria in the next 12 months. The company has also entered the Techstars NYC accelerator program to try to boost its growth. Dorsu indicated that the company could expand to other countries (in Africa and beyond) within the next five years, as people become more familiar with biometric tech.
In terms of technology, Torche is planning to offer support for multiple biometric modalities to ensure that its system is as inclusive as possible. The company started out with fingerprints, then expanded to face and palm biometrics after discovering that fingerprint recognition did not work as well for certain people (such as tradespeople who work with their hands).
Torche is also aware that security is critical for any company handling biometric data. The company noted that its CTO was previously involved in the development of Ghana’s biometric ID system, and has been able to draw on that experience as Torche builds its own platform. Nigeria is in the process of rolling out its own national ID program, and is now registering citizens with BIO-key fingerprint sensors.
Source: Cloud News Mag
July 7, 2022 – by Eric Weiss