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Africa goes biometric

Cameroon-born visionary entrepreneur introduces innovative immigration security system Bridge Corporation is a Berlin-based leading biometric technology company that has evolved from a traditional visa application-processing company to implementing finger print scanning technology, to employing biometric technology and finally providing consultancy services on security issues related to immigration. In an exclusive interview with The African Courier, the Cameroon-born entrepreneur and the CEO of Bridge Corporation, Amahadu Adamou, talks about his company.

Mr Amahadu, how would you describe what your company does? 
Providing accurate information and ensuring that our clients understand that requirements and procedures are key to our customer service. We help millions of travellers every year travel to Africa. 

We listen to the immigration challenges of local border officials and adapt our travel procedures to address these concerns. We strike the balance between tightened local immigration demands and cumbersome visa application procedures through the development of secured IT tools that provide authorised immigration and embassy officials’ access to clients’ information before their visa approval or arrival at destination port. We also simplify the visa application process using our online portal and this makes life easy for our customers.

What sets your company apart from others offering similar services?
We look at immigration security challenges of African countries and develop a tailored solution. Bridge Corporation integrates machine-readable visa stickers with biometric data that provides the kind of information immigration officers will need to keep their external borders safe. Our good and strong working relations with diplomatic missions in Germany and abroad have enabled us to develop the required IT tools necessary to handle modern immigration security challenges.
Our ability to innovate and adapt to the dynamic changing environment has differentiated us from our competitors and in particular, the so-called visa agents. It is for these reasons that we believe it’s practical and sensible to choose Bridge Corporation as a company to do business with, as compared to local visa agents. 

What does a biometric service centre do that a visa agent doesn’t?
It is obvious that visa agents act mainly as couriers who collect documents and forward them to the embassies. Bridge Corporation has developed a secured IT infrastructure through which data is shared with diplomatic missions and immigration officers. Our competent staffs simplify the visa application process such that it helps our clients save time and money. Our digital finger print scanner linked to our biometric visa technology system ensures that only the right people are granted entry to various countries we work with.
Currently we are accredited by four embassies; we are the sole provider of biometric services to the embassies of Cameroon, DR Congo, Guinea Bissau and Uganda. We are also discussing with other African embassies as well and we are in the process of reaching agreements with more embassies soon.

Are your customers mostly tourists or business travellers?
We mainly provide our services to business people travelling to Africa. Due to the fact that many people travel on dual purpose (combination of business and leisure), we now provide our services to both business and leisure travellers. 

What’s the process of helping your client to apply for visa like?
Our on-line tool describes a detailed visa application procedure and immigration laws. Our digital online application option gives our clients the choice either to apply directly online or physically present themselves at the location of application. Clients can have their fingerprint scanned at a later date. This provides flexibility. We have often been mistaken to be only a visa agency. We however offer an integrated high tech visa services both to our clients and to diplomatic missions with whom we have a contract. Our visa application-processing department and biometric department are there to help both our clients and partners have the comfort of getting the best support they would expect from us. 

Why does anybody even need a visa agent? Can’t I just apply directly myself?
Good question! Most embassies today are focused on handling diplomatic activities and have less time and resources to deliver proper visa application support. The specialised skills such as knowledge of local laws, cultural differences and secured immigration equipment can best be provided by Bridge Corporation, which is well placed in this industry.Secondly, businesses as well as individuals would rather save time making money on other transactions than lose time staying in cues to apply for visas.
More often, there is less information on embassy’s websites and clients may have to make more than a single trip merely to apply for the visa. This mostly leads to dissatisfaction and frustration of clients. 

How many visa applications do you handle in a year?
At our visa solution services, we assist close to a million travellers a year to various African countries. At the biometric service centre, we remain the sole service centre of the four embassies we have contract with.

You started Bridge Corporation in 2009, what has been your experience so far? 
Our recent customer survey, conducted late last year, showed more than 80 per cent customer satisfaction rate on most of the questions asked. I am particularly proud of the trust our customers have in us. Our business partners believe in us and over the years have empowered us more to bring new ideas that would solve some of their immigration challenges. I feel blessed. I started as a one-person company, which has grown in size and across borders. We now have an IT department for innovation, a visa and biometric processing department, and a finance and office administration department.

What are the challenges?
Our toughest challenge is breaking barriers. As a young African entrepreneur, it is still very challenging even in modern times to convince most African representatives that a company like mine, of African origin, is capable of competing with its European peers in the same industry.  Competition remains our toughest challenge but we continue to see the development of tailored solutions to immigration security challenges as an area with great growth potential.

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