Durban — Experts meeting at the 2nd Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Conference are currently locked in critical discussions and debates on how to improve the field on the African continent.
The experts are meeting in Durban until Wednesday and are expected to set the tone for the ministerial meeting and to a large extent, influence the shape of its outcomes, said Dimitri Sanga, Director at the African Centre for Statistics at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
"It is extremely crucial that in the next three days, experts discuss and debate all technical issues related to the improvement of civil registration in Africa... in order to help your ministers provide clear policy guidelines in the improvement of these systems," he told the delegates at the start of the conference on Monday.
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Minister Fatima Chohan was also at the conference's opening, where she highlighted the critical role civil registration and vital statistics played in advancing the continents' developmental agenda.
Civil registration and the gathering of vital statistics was about development, success, and prosperity, she stressed.
"Without an accurate database of its citizens, their status and other vital information, a country can't even begin to call itself a proper democracy... How do you conduct free and fair elections? It simply cannot account for its own security and it cannot become prosperous," Chohan added.
Without accurate statistics, governments would end up building sports stadia where hospitals were required; would build schools that were inaccessible; and would invest millions on roads that no one would use, she pointed out.
Experts discussing the civil registration and vital statistics had the opportunity ensure the prevalence of democracy and sound governance in all African countries and the ability to be able to "pluck from the tree of prosperity", Chohan added.
In his address to delegates, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize said that civil registration and vital statistics were fundamental to everything countries and governments planned and carried out.
"For planning, we require accurate data and vital statistics, and for the execution of government programmes and service delivery. In the absence of accurate data, vital statistics and civil registration, it makes it difficult to quantify," he added.
Accurate data was also important in order to ensure that the resources of a country were equitably distributed across its population.
The experts are meeting at the Durban International Convention Centre ahead of the Ministerial Conference on 6 and 7 September.
Their meeting is expected to provide a comprehensive analytical framework and a roadmap that will culminate in recommendations for the ministers to deliberate upon and ratify.
The conference, held under the theme 'Improving Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Institutional and Human Infrastructure in Africa', is coordinated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Union Commission (AUC), African Development Bank, and hosted by the South African Government.
The Ministerial Conference will be chaired by Home Affairs Minister and Chairperson of the AU Commission Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
Fifty-four African Ministers responsible for civil registration and vital statistics are expected to attend the conference, as well as about 500 delegates from African countries including senior civil registration technical experts, development partners, young statisticians and professional associations.
The South African government delegation will be led by Dlamini Zuma and include representatives of the Ministries of Home Affairs, International Relations and Co-operation, Health, Social Development, SAPS, Defence and Stats SA.