Ruth Butaumocho, LUSAKA, Zambia
The Fifth Conference of African Ministers responsible for Civil Registration, CRVS, opened here in Zambia with Government officials from member countries pledging to strengthen mechanisms for registration of its people.
The conference aims to provide strategic and policy guidance on pathways towards holistic, innovative and integrated civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) and digital identity management systems to help close the identity gap in Africa where more than 500 million people have no legal identity documents such as national identity cards.
Speaking during the conference the African Union Commissioner for the African Affairs Department, Dr Victor Harrison said civil registration data was essential for a functional and people centred integration process that aims to improve well-being, promote job creation, and market expansion through trade, free movement and labour mobility.
“The continent is experiencing a technological revolution with an upsurge in the use of mobile devices, social media, information and communication technologies and big data, creating new channels for human interactions, and economic opportunities;
“However, the lack of formal and robust identification and poor Civil Registration and vital statistics (CRVS) on the continent has contributed to marginalization and exclusion of many citizens, ” he noted.
Participants to the conference where Zimbabwe is represented by various Government officials are expected to deliberate on new and emerging initiatives to capture data for civil registration.
This will inlcude the United Nations Legal Identity Agenda and the digital identity initiative in Africa, both of which rely on a functioning and efficient CRVS system.
Specifically, the ministers from member countries are expected to chart the way forward by identifying key challenges in the implementation of the Africa Programme on Accelerated Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (APAI-CRVS) at the regional and national levels and proposing solutions.
“It is important that as a continent we modernize and harmonize civil registration and digital identity systems, which are foundational to legal identity ecosystems. Vital statistics systems that enable member States to monitor progress towards the sustainable development goals and Agenda 2063 should be strengthened. The conference will allow us to take stock and chart the way forward,” said Mr Oliver Chinganya, Director of the African Statistics Centre at the Economic Commission for Africa.
“We need to make sure that we get everyone in the picture. The ECA, working with its partners, is fully committed to supporting our member States to ensure we use innovation and technological solutions to help establish well-functioning CRVS systems to achieve universal coverage and complete the registration of four vital events in the life of a person – birth, death, marriages and even divorce.”
The conference will also 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 statistics systems are interoperable with national identity management and various government functions.
During the deliberations ministers are expected to reach an agreement on the strategic direction for a comprehensive legal framework, adopting technological innovations, improving interoperability and strengthening institutional capacity and coordination across ministries and agencies for the integrated improvement of CRVS and identity management systems.
The conference is being organized by the African Union Commission in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and Government of the Zambia through the support of various stakeholders.