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KYC Best Practices05 Jun 2023

Why Smile Identity beats global KYC providers like Onfido, Veriff and Jumio for Africa-focused businesses

Megan Keirstead

Product Marketing Manager

For too long, Africa-focused businesses have faced neglect from global service providers across various sectors. Simple things like accepting payments were a nightmare before companies like Paystack and Flutterwave came in. Similarly, Identity verification has been a long-standing issue.

While major global companies have developed KYC processes, they often prioritise Europe and North America, overlooking the unique needs of African businesses. As a result, these one-size-fits-all solutions fall short of providing tailored support for the region. Recognising this gap, Smile Identity offers locally-focused identity verification services that genuinely understand and cater to African businesses' distinct requirements and experiences.

Taking into consideration Africa’s unique challenges

While technology is advancing and, in many cases leapfrogging that of the West, there are still realities tech companies and their customers have to face operating in Africa. In developing our verification solutions, we carefully considered the day-to-day challenges faced by African consumers, ensuring that our offerings are tailored to address their specific needs effectively.

Internet connectivity can be spotty

Though users in major cities enjoy robust internet signals, smaller communities are still working on developing the infrastructure for stable, high-speed connections. As a result, internet connectivity in these areas may experience occasional disruptions and lower bandwidth.

Customers use a wide variety of smartphones

While iPhone and Samsung dominate market shares in North America and Europe, African consumers purchase a significant number of off-brand smartphones. For instance, Kenya’s largest phone provider is Samsung; however, Tecno and Infinix follow close behind, two manufacturers focused on budget devices. This has a few implications for ID verification:

  1. Camera Quality: Due to a large market share of budget smartphones, users' devices often have lower camera quality. Consequently, they may struggle to meet the high-resolution photo requirements set by global players, who often demand image quality of 300 DPI or higher. For reference, 300 DPI is typically used by photographers and graphic designers for printing high-quality images, making it an unrealistic standard for most consumers.
  2. Software compatibility: Another concern is software compatibility, as these budget devices may not support the latest operating systems. To ensure inclusivity, SDKs must be compatible with older operating systems, emphasising Android compatibility. This approach guarantees that every user is included in ID verification.

Service agents are still crucial for accessibility

A common enrollment method for many financial services working to provide inclusive solutions is to send agents into communities to onboard users. This is still a great workaround in communities where smartphones are not prevalent. However, some usability considerations, such as allowing back-camera capture, are needed to make this process easier for agents and individuals to get their identities checked.

These problems are solvable with the right considerations

We have implemented numerous measures to tackle the challenge above, ensuring our products are user-friendly and more effective for the average consumer.

  • Connectivity Optimizations: Smile Identity solutions are optimised for low bandwidth environments, high latency, and flaky connections. By enabling multiple retries in case of network failures and reducing image size, we optimise our services for challenging conditions. Furthermore, our SDK continues to operate even without an internet connection. Therefore, the user can still capture images without the internet and will be submitted once the device is back online.
  • Device considerations: Our SDKs maintain compatibility with a broad range of devices, supporting Android 5 (released in 2014) and iOS 12 (2018). Additionally, we have optimised our image captures by employing compression techniques that produce smaller file sizes without imposing minimum resolution requirements.
  • Agent adaptations: We have added an "agent-mode" capture method. The SDK can be configured to use the back-facing camera to capture faces (instead of the front-facing selfie) for agents registering consumers.

Coverage of African ID documents

In numerous African countries, ID systems remain fragmented, with no single ID card uniformly held by all citizens. For instance, Nigeria has over five ID types, and a customer may possess only one. Moreover, while National IDs are common, only around 55% of the population have one. Allowing users to onboard with Voter Cards, National ID, Driver’s License and more ensure you capture all users, not just those with one specific ID.

Many global ID document verification providers claim to cover thousands of documents worldwide; while this seems impressive, they often neglect to update African documents. Unfortunately, this means the documents will often fail, and it can be difficult to determine why.

At Smile Identity, we cover three or more ID documents in most African markets. Our local teams stay updated on new documents being issued across the continent and ensure the latest documents are on file. So don’t lose out on onboarding users because the ID document they hold is not covered or is being compared to an outdated template.

A local support team with expert market knowledge

Our customer success team, based across Africa, is well-versed in common ID errors, fraud methods, and failure reasons in each market we serve. For instance, if you aim to onboard users in Cameroon, a Smile Identity representative will recommend verifying users with national IDs, as they are the most prevalent ID type, and ensuring the capture of both the front and back of the ID card since the ID number is located on the back.

As our core focus is empowering African businesses, you will always remain our top priority. All of our enterprise customers receive dedicated account managers and Slack support channels, enabling easy access to our assistance at any time. With a typical support response time of under one hour, many of our partners consider us an integral part of their team.

Smile improved our KYC in key markets across Africa. 

"Working with the Smile team, we have solved problems customers are dealing with, from a mobile device that can’t take a picture clearly to how quickly we can get information stored and vetted. It’s been quite amazing to work with Smile." - Mandy Naidoo, Cheif Compliance Officer, Yellow Card

The case for an Africa-focused KYC provider

Indeed, global KYC providers have years of experience onboarding users in Western markets, and they are good at that! However, the reality remains that the needs of African users differ significantly from those in the West.

The bottom line is your onboarding journey will suffer because their services were not designed with African users in mind. As a result, apps will crash, good users will be rejected, and more customers will abandon your onboarding journey altogether. Smile Identity has built our solutions with you and your customers in mind; we guarantee the highest user approval rate for African users. Talk to one of our experts now.

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