How Kenya resists US pressure on Worldcoin

Tuesday, March 26th, 2024 04:45 | By
Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Administration Prof. Kithure Kindiki. PHOTO/Print
Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Administration Prof. Kithure Kindiki. PHOTO/Print

Kenya has rejected a push by the United States of America (USA) to allow the operations of cryptocurrency project WorldCoin to resume in the country.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki told MPs yesterday that the US government has been pressuring the Kenyan government to lift the suspension it imposed in August 2023 on the activities of WorldCoin.

Appearing before MPs, Kindiki however clarified the government will not lift the suspension until all the data protection laws are adhered to

He said: “The United States has been pushing the government on the issues of WorldCoin, but we have remained adamant and firm.”

He added: “They (US) think that they (WorldCoin) still have a case to set up their activities here. We have remained adamant and the decision we took will remain. We are not going to review the suspension. The status quo remains as is.”

Appearing before the Public Petitions Committee, Kindiki said that the government will ensure Kenyans are protected from issues touching on cybercrime.

Interpol intervention

The sentiments by Kindiki come hardly months after he revealed that the government had sought the intervention of Interpol to crack down on those behind Worldcoin activities after it emerged that there is a direct link between the activities of cryptocurrency to funding money laundering, and financing of terrorism.

Kindiki, speaking in September last year, explained that the owners of WorldCoin started operating in Kenya under the guise that they were offering educational programmes on cryptocurrency.

He explained it was not until the end of July 2022 when it emerged that the two US companies behind WorldCoin were engaged in the business of collecting sensitive biometric data from Kenyans by scanning their Irises in exchange for cryptocurrency inducement equivalent to Sh7,000 per individual.

Citizens detained

However, he clarified the government released Worldcoin American citizens who had initially been detained after the US government intervened and promised the Kenyan government of their availability whenever they are needed.

Following the move, he announced that he had suspended all WorldCoin activities until concerned government agencies ascertain that the app is free of any risks.

He said. “The Government has suspended forthwith activities of WorldCoin and any other entity that may be similarly engaging Kenyans until relevant public agencies certify the absence of any risks to the general public whatsoever.”

He added: “Appropriate action will be taken on any natural or juristic person who furthers, aids, abets or otherwise engages in or is connected with the activities afore described.”

At the time the Capital Markets Authority had also cautioned the public, saying World coin is not regulated in Kenya.

 “WorldCoin related products including crypto tokens and their derivatives are not investment products within the scope of the Capital  Markets Authority and hence not the regulatory purview of CMA,” the regulator said.

The WorldCoin project gave each signup a digital ID that, according to the idea, will assist online users identify between real people and Artificial Intelligence (AI) programmes.

According to the creator, eye-scanning will be essential in a future where it will be harder to tell humans from robots as a result of an increase in AI technology.

The project was suspended just days after the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner issued a warning against it, advising Kenyans to exercise greater caution and make sure they are properly informed prior to revealing any personal or sensitive information.

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