Home News More than 500 million Africans have no legal identity

More than 500 million Africans have no legal identity


High-level participants at the ongoing fifth Conference of African Ministers responsible for Civil Registration (COM5) had the opportunity to focus on leveraging partnerships in Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) as they continued to seek ways to bridge the identity gap on the continent.

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide lack proof of legal identity, the majority of them being children who were never registered at birth.

With CRVS systems improvement gaining momentum in Africa, representatives from various donors and development partners, including the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF.

Centre of Excellence for CRVS and Global Financing Fund presented funding and donor initiatives in improving specific technical aspects of CRVS. The objective was to guide countries on the kinds of support available from different partners and how to leverage these opportunities for the benefit of countries’ CRVS systems improvement initiatives.

A representative of the AfDB stated that the institution is the main financial sponsor of statistical capacity in Africa. This includes support to data collection, CRVS, production of tools and guide and technical assistance to countries. AfDB is currently working on mobilising more resources to support CRVS. AfDB reiterated its commitment to support the improvement of CRVS systems across the continent and recalled various ways for countries to request support from the institution.

UNFPA was represented by Fredrick Okwayo, from the Johannesburg Regional Office. He said that their agency was committed to strengthening its support across Africa to census and improvement of vital statistics. Regarding the data for development nexus, UNFPA will continue support on data development. UNFPA also engaged in the strengthening of registration and analysis of mariages and divorces. On the census, the representative confirmed that UNFPA developed a technical note to include more civil registration variables. The UN agency informed the meeting that it will host, in collaboration with the Government of Kenya and Denmark, the 25th Anniversary of ICPD in Africa, from 12 to 14 November 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference will be an opportunity to discuss the issue of CRVS improvement.

On the other hand, the representative from UNHCR, Cosmas Chanda placed special emphasis on the organisation’s mandate to contribute to the development and dissemination of statistics of refugees, returnees, forced displaced people, and stateless people. “UNHCR is keen to continue to support countries to improve their CRVS systems to better people’s lives”, he said.

The representative from UNICEF, Eri Suzuki, stated that the organization was an active member of APAI- CRVS Core Group. Regarding the theme of the Conference of Ministers, it was noted that civil registration information and registration of births and deaths, was the source for the identity management system. UNICEF also emphasised the importance of health sector to maintain an interoperability system. The importance of domestic resources to support the improvement of CRVS was flagged with UNICEF reiterating its commitment to support countries and strengthen partnerships towards the improvement of CRVS system.

The representative of WHO indicated the close collaboration with UNICEF in the health sector and that improvement in CRVS was key to promoting health. The Institution is committed to supporting countries in the areas of death registration and registration of causes of deaths. WHO informed the meeting of the launch, in collaboration with UNICEF, of a guideline on the contribution to the health sector in the improvement of CRVS system.

The Centre of Excellence (CoE) reiterated its commitment to be a global hub of knowledge generation and delivery in CRVS. CoE advised of the current development of a knowledge product on investing in CRVS. Various support provided and initiatives were mentioned, including capacity building for CRVS country experts and local consultants. A database of local consultants was also developed.

The presentations were concluded by Maletela Tuoane-Nkhasi from Global Financing Fund who pointed out the need to improve the registration of preventable deaths of women and children. GFF provided financial support to 10 countries, at an amount of 20 million USD to improve CRVS. The various support provided included technical assistance and coordination, alignment between partners, development of knowledge products and capacity building on CRVS.

All partners hoped that the Conference will provide strategic and policy guidance on pathways towards holistic, innovative and integrated civil registration and vital statistics and digital identity management systems to help close the identity gap in Africa, where more than 500 million people have no legal identity.