US pushing Kenya to lift WorldCoin suspension


An attendant opens a customer's QR code while registering members of the public to the new Worldcoin cryptocurrency at KICC Nairobi on August 1, 2023.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | NMG

Kenya has rejected a push by the United States government to revoke the suspension of activities of the cryptocurrency project WorldCoin, legislators heard on Thursday.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki told Parliament that the government will not lift the suspension it imposed in August 2023 on the activities of WorldCoin.

Appearing before the National Assembly’s committee on Public Petitions, Prof Kindiki said Kenya has been under pressure from the US government to lift the suspension.

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

“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.”

Prof Kindiki appeared before the committee chaired by Kuria East MP Marwa Gitayama, which is processing a public petition seeking to ban the popular Chinese messaging platform TikTok.

He said the government is exploring all avenues including limiting some of the activities of TikTok as was the case with the WorldCoin, which was suspended from collecting Kenyan citizens' biometric data by capturing the iris.

Prof Kindiki on August 2, 2023, issued a directive suspending the activities of WorldCoin pending the conclusion of inquiries that were aimed at establishing the safety of the data being harvested.

At the time, Prof Kindiki said the suspension would remain in effect until assurances of the safety and integrity of financial deals are provided.

“The government has suspended forthwith activities of WorldCoin and any other entity that may be similarly engaging the people of Kenya until relevant public agencies certify the absence of any risks to the general public whatsoever,” the statement issued by Prof Kindiki said.

“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 (CMA) had warned of the emergence of potential fraudulent schemes involving cryptocurrencies in the backdrop of the fallout from the rollout of WorldCoin- a crypto project handing out free tokens to Kenyans.

The markets regulator said WorldCoin was not regulated in Kenya and that related products including the free crypto-tokens and their derivatives are not investment products within the scope of the Capital Markets Act.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) had earlier issued an advisory against the project, urging Kenyans to heighten their vigilance and ensure that they receive proper information before disclosing any sensitive data.

WorldCoin is a new project by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman where users are required to provide their iris scans in exchange for digital identification and free cryptocurrency called WorldCoin token.

Long queues were seen leading to the Kenyatta International Convention Center where eye-scanning was taking place, prompting the police to stop the registration, citing security concerns.

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