The Trust Seminar

Many countries on the African continent are building powerful new biometric population registration systems. Often matched with credit scoring regulations and digital payment systems, these tools are designed to have powerful effects on finance. The advocates of these systems describe them as trust infrastructures, mainly because they can be used to simplify payments and strengthen credit distribution in the context of unreliable identification and collateral systems. Trust is important, but it is also complicated and difficult. These identification infrastructures are having powerful effects on credit distributions; they also affect African states’ abilities to raise tax, register property, expand welfare systems and issue local currency debts. They can serve as potent drivers of exclusion, both in the credit market and in society. As the recent high court judgement against the Department of Home Affairs has shown they can be powerful drivers of exclusion.  Identification systems are hardening claims to citizenship and mobility, and encouraging the strict individualization of credit (at the cost of firms and families). Perhaps the most obvious problem – clearly visible in the case of Safaricom in Kenya and MTN in Nigeria – is that the new trust infrastructures trigger serious conflicts over the concentration and sharing of information (and profits) between banks and the dominant mobile network operators.

In this on-line seminar series we will examine how these trust infrastructures work, and where they fail, by reading clearly argued research papers from across the continent and beyond. 

For the programme of seminars, follow this link.  Please register on Zoom to join the series.

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