Facial recognition technology is not widely employed in Africa, partly because the technology available up till now has not been adept at identifying and differentiating the faces of Black people.
US government tests of the best Western-developed facial recognition systems have shown them to misidentify black faces at rates up to five to 10 times higher than they do white people.
The racial disparity in the performance of the biometric artificial intelligence technology which forms the backbone of these systems stemmed from an obvious problem: they are trained by using datasets mostly made up of white faces
In 2018, four software engineers set up a company in Ghana to address this limitation of commonly available facial recognition software.
They were spurred by their own research which revealed Ghanaian banks are beset by widespread identity fraud and cybercrime and spend nearly $400 million a year to identify their customers.
A program led by Charlette N’Guessan, an engineer originally from neighboring Côte d’Ivoire, the group developed its own facial recognition software, BACE API, using artificial intelligence. In contrast to Western developers, they trained BACE API using a more diverse dataset with a sizable representation of Black African faces to suit the local market.
One key strength of BACE API is that it’s able to verify a user’s identity remotely which is particularly useful for financial institutions and other customer-facing industries whose operations require identity verification at scale.
It can be integrated onto existing apps and systems and does not require special hardware.
Another distinguishing feature of BACE API is its use of live images or short videos to determine if images are of real people rather than pre-existing photographs.
The group’s software beat out other competitors for the 2020 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, which is awarded annually by the UK’ s Royal Academy of Engineering.