Africa Has Made Progress in Civil Registration and Vital Statistics but Much Remains to Be Done

14 October 2019

Lusaka — Africa has made impressive progress in revamping its Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems in the past few years, says William Muhwava, Chief of the Demographic and Social Statistics Section in the African Statistics Centre at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

In his presentation at the ongoing 5th Conference of African Ministers responsible for CRVS in Lusaka, Zambia, Mr. Muhwava outlined key achievements and progress made by the continent, adding much, however, remained to be done to ensure everyone on the continent was visible.

One of the biggest achievements was the institutionalization of the Conference of African Ministers responsible for CRVS as a standing forum of the African Union Commission to provide policy directions for the transformation and accelerated improvement of civil registration and vital statistics systems in Africa.

Mr. Muhwava's presentation reviewed progress made by the continent in the implementation of the Africa Programme on Accelerated Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (APAI-CRVS) over the past two years against commitments made by the African ministers responsible for CRVS.

The ECA expert said the formation of the regional core group on civil registration and vital statistics was another key achievement for the continent as it seeks to create a modern and comprehensive CRVS system. The core group harmonizes approaches, harnesses synergies and help to avoid duplication of CRVS efforts, as well as providing financial and technical support to APAI-CRVS.

He said there are also ongoing efforts to establish a committee of African Registrars General aimed at strengthening and supporting the work of the Conference of Ministers.

"There is a need for an intergovernmental process to sustain the momentum and accelerate progress in the development of CRVS statistics," said Mr. Muhwava.

The report emphasized that progress has also been made in digitization of civil registration and vital statistics, keeping records, promoting knowledge sharing and establishment of a monitoring framework.

Mr. Muhwava said death registration levels in most African countries were abysmally low, and the recording and compilation of causes of death was almost non-existent.

ECA and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have jointly developed an Africa mortality statistics strategy (2016-2020) to directly deal with this ministerial call for action on pan-African organizations to take urgent steps to support African States in establishing real-time death registration and cause-of-death information systems.

Despite progress made, the report pointed out challenges met in the implementation of the CRVS programme. First and foremost, funding for APAI-CRVS, sourced largely from development partners, has been inadequate and ad hoc in nature. The unpredictability of resources has affected its smooth implementation, including sustaining the human resources required to run the APAI-CRVS secretariat. Further to that, many countries lack the mechanisms and capacity to routinely monitor the performance of their civil registration systems, and they cannot therefore adequately report on the improvements emerging from their interventions.

The CRVS Digitization Guidebook was developed by the Regional Core Group under the technical leadership of Plan International, supported by ECA and the African Development Bank in collaboration with country experts in Africa.

"Together we can do this for the continent. Progress has been made and we need to keep moving forward, working together and speaking with one voice as we seek to develop viable ideas and solutions to our CRVS challenges."

The 5th Conference of Ministers aims to 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.

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