Lusaka — The Fifth Conference of African Ministers responsible for civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS), opened here with government officials from member countries pledging to strengthen mechanisms for the registration of their people.
The conference seeks to provide strategic and policy guidance on pathways towards holistic, innovative and integrated 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 functional societies 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 on the continent has contributed to the marginalisation and exclusion of many citizens," he noted.
Several challenges experienced at country level continue to constrain the successful operation of civil registration and the availability of vital statistics for use developmental projects.
Some of the challenges include weak country ownership and leadership in national civil registration records as well as limited expertise on how to register citizens.
It is against this background that the African Union has embarked on a number of initiatives to ensure that member countries are capacitated on civil registration of their citizens.
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, such as births, marriages, divorces and deaths.
This will include the United Nations Legal Identity Agenda and the digital identity initiative in Africa, both of which rely on a functioning and efficient CRVS system.
The conference is being organised 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.