Africa must work to document its people conference stresses

Improving modern civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) was the goal of the Fifth Conference of African Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration, held under the theme of “Innovative Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System: Foundation for Legal Identity Management” to achieve all aspects of social and economic development goals.
The conference, held for five days in Mulungushi International Conference Centre Lusaka, Zambia including the two days of ministerial meetings on October 17 and 18 emphasized countries in the continent to give attention to improve the vital events registration, which is very weak in Africa.
The CRVS system is a foundation for robust and sustainable legal identity systems in the continent. It has been also stated it is crucial for the realization a continental free trade agreement in Africa, which is part of free movement of people of the continent, since it has connection with the national ID system.
Inonge Mutukwa Wina, Vice President of Zambia, said in her opening speech on Thursday October 17 “we share a common vision, to build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven and managed by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena. If you truly understand civil registration, the reality is that we cannot achieve this great African vision without counting and recording our citizens which is what civil registration really is.”
During a ministerial media briefing at the conference that opened on Monday October 14 attended by experts from member countries and international partners Zambia’s Home Affairs Minister, Stephen Kampyongo, said African countries had made progress in their institutional capacities to deliver a legal identity but added more needed to be done to address the continent’s ‘scandal of invisibility’ where half of the continent’s children are not registered at birth.
At least 1.5 billion people lack proof of legal identity the world over. Half of them are in Africa, exposing them to vulnerabilities, including lack of access to services.
Half of the children in the continent are also not registered according date revealed on the meeting.
The UN Sustainable Development Goal and Africa’s Agenda 2063 have also given attention to the vital event registration that shall contribute to tackling the challenges that the continent faces.
For instance, the 12 of the 17 goals of the SDG has motioned about the registration of the vital events that shall solve problems at 2063 targeted goals has also magnified the issue.
In her video message Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of UN ECA This is a subject that is of crucial importance to Africa’s economic and social development, and that is at the core of the realization of our ambitions to eradicate poverty, and to achieve inclusive and sustainable development and respect human rights.
“Africa, which is home to 1.3 billion people, is faced with a critical legal identity gap, whereby many exist without being known to their governments and without any means to prove who they are,” she said.
“According to UNICEF, the births of 2 in 3 infants in Africa south of the Sahara remain unregistered, and 3 out of every 4 lack a birth certificate. It is further projected that if the current trends continue, the number of unregistered children aged below 5 in the region will soar to nearly 115 million by 2030. The World Bank complements these estimates reporting that half of the estimated 1.3 billion people that lack proof of legal identity live in Africa,” she added.
On his opening remarks of the experts meeting Oliver Chinganya, Director of the African Centre for Statistics at United Nations Economic Commission for Africa noted that civil registration was the foundation of legal identity – a universal requirement for SDG16.9 to “provide legal identity for all, including birth registration’’. He highlighted the significant progress registered on the implementation of the APAI-CRVS Program
including: (i) the operationalization of the resolutions of the Nouakchott Declaration; (ii) improved staffing levels of the ECA Secretariat and; (iii) the continental strengthened commitment to conducting comprehensive assessment of CRVS systems in Member States.
Speaking at the opening session of senior officials, Victor Harrison, AUC Commissioner for Economic Affairs stressed the importance of Civil Registration data for a functional and people-centered integration process that aims to allowing citizen to benefit from their fundamental right, improve their wee-being, promote job creation, and market expansion through trade, free movement of people and labor mobility.
He encouraged AU Member States to register all births, marriages and other vital events on their territory without discrimination and irrespective of the legal status of the individuals concerned (including refugees, internally displaced persons, stateless persons, as well as those at risk of statelessness, and migrants.
Charles L. Lufumpa, Acting Chief Economist and Vice President of African Development Bank, said that the Bank had been playing a critical role in implementing the APAI-CRVS program, which was a key part of its overall statistical capacity-building program for African countries. Noting the progress made over the past decade for the improvement of CRVS on the continent he highlighted some challenges and commended efforts by all stakeholders to create awareness and knowledge about the importance CRVS and secure national identity systems for socio-economic policy making. He stressed the need for scaling up efforts towards modernizing and digitalizing CRVS systems across Africa.
The main objectives of the conference are to identify key challenges in the implementation of the Africa Program for Accelerated Improvement (APAI) of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics at regional and national levels, reaffirm the commitment of governments and development partners to CRVS and identity management through a holistic approach that strengthens institutional mechanisms for accelerated improvement of civil registration, vital statistics and identity management systems on the continent; and to review and share best practices from African countries on CRVS and identity management system digitization processes, using appropriate information technology infrastructure and improving innovative business processes, to ensure that universal CRVS systems are interoperable with national identity management and various government functions.
The meeting has also given attention to digital identity management systems in AU member states and discusses new and emerging initiatives such as the digital identity initiative in Africa and the United Nations Legal Identity Agenda, both of which rely on a well-functioning and efficient CRVS and identity management systems.
Legal identity is established through the civil registration of a birth, a process in which the government records important biographic information about the occurrence and characteristics of birth and persons experiencing the event. This record is routinely updated with important changes in civil status, such as marriage and divorce, and is retired upon the civil registration of death and by the issuance of a death certificate.
The first ministerial meeting was held in 2010 in Addis Ababa and the fourth meeting was held Nouakchott, Mauritania in 2017.