Why Kenyans Are Against Huduma Card and Huduma Namba Registration


Kenyans are particularly a bitter people today if the uproar on social media platforms is anything to go by. The primary cause of the complaints is the apparent push by the government to issue unique identifier codes, also referred to as Huduma Namba. The development was announced a couple of months ago, and at that time, people did not seem to care about them until ICT CS Joe Mucheru revisited the topic during the staging of Connected Kenya 2018 at Bomas. The announcement came into effect yesterday when the government launched the exercise, which aims to see all Kenyans acquire another number to a list of already too many person identifiers.

The issue

Before we proceed with this story, it is worth noting that the government is conducting a mandatory registration exercise for all citizens according to the Amendment of Registration of Persons Act Section 9A. The activity is under the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) program that aims to create a single database for personal information for all Kenyans. After registration, the identifier issued to a Kenyan is what is referred to as Huduma Namba.

What is infuriating, at least to people communicating their distaste for the process, is the number of documents required to carry out the exercise.

The controversy

Of course, the online discomfort, which has since gone viral with the #ResistHudumaNamba hashtag, does not sit well with people behind the registration exercise. To this end, folks in charge of the state’s PR have launched a counter movement that appears to further introduce more controversy into the matter. For instance, some are arguing that Huduma Number will be linked to Huduma Card. The card was not mentioned before, but a basic search reveals that the government struck a deal with MasterCard to hone the purpose of Huduma Namba.

Here is what MasterCard reported on its newsroom:

The Huduma Card is a prepaid card with chip and PIN technology that will connect all Kenyans to the formal financial sector by providing a secure, reliable and flexible payment option. The Huduma Card, powered by Mastercard, is currently being issued by Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), Diamond Trust Bank (DTB), Equity Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), with no bank charges being allocated to citizens when registering for the smart card.

Kenyans will be able to pay for an array of Government services such as the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), National Social Security Fund (NSSF) amongst others. Citizens issued with the smart prepaid card will automatically be enrolled in vital government services such as the National Social Security Fund and the National Hospital Insurance Fund, ensuring all Kenyans benefit from these initiatives.

According to the preceding Twitter thread, the relationships between Huduma Namba and Huduma Card is still unclear, and the uncertainty presented is what has people so worked up.

End game

Tens of thousands, perhaps millions of Kenyans who have access to the online debate are against another registration, biometrics-taking exercise that is yet to see a conclusive explanation. The NIIMS project, which is said to cost KES 6 billion, and the entirety of the Huduma fiasco that is defended to guard against impersonation, fraud and ease of access to public services, has a long way to go to justify its existence. We will see the government’s countermeasures, which, hopefully, should clear the air as soon as possible.


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