ID4Africa Identity Council launches as Ambassador ranks grow to record 43

ID4Africa has announced the appointment of Ambassadors from 14 new countries for its 2019 Ambassador class, and will host a first-ever Ambassadors’ Summit ahead of the movement’s fifth annual meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, as the Council of Ambassadors evolves into a continental identity authority. With the countries joining the effort for universal legal identity in Africa, ID4Africa and the Ambassadors’ new ID4Africa Identity Council now represent roughly 93 percent of Africa’s population, and all geographic regions of the continent.

The Ambassadors’ Summit will be an annual meeting dedicated to identifying major continental issues and challenges in identity ecosystems, reviewing the work of and setting the agenda for working groups, and pronouncing Council positions. The ID4Africa Identity Council is becoming the largest south-south institution of its kind, composed of an enthusiastic group of experts selected based on passion, merit, and experience through a robust vetting process, according to ID4Africa Executive Chairman Dr. Joseph J. Atick.

“The Ambassadors will get together for that one-day workshop and will begin working together to establish the governance to put in place, establish the priorities and the agenda items for discussions,” Atick told Biometric Update in an exclusive interview. “We hope to formulate also the committees that are going to tackle the different aspects of the working agenda. Basically, we’re creating a pan-African organization that will provide guidance to Africa as Africa implements its identification solutions.”

The Council will function, largely through the working groups, as a year-round working body of individuals who are empowered by their own countries to pursue an identity ecosystem improvement agenda. By pooling their resources as a highly transparent international, non-partisan organization, they will be able to provide guidance agnostic of vendors, and independent of organizations from Europe or the U.S. The Council will be empowered to make pronouncements about standards and best practices in the interest of Africa, make recommendations, and lend its weight to positions on matters related to identity, according to Atick. Ambassadors are also responsible for validating the claims made by members of their delegation as a register of identity stakeholders is created. This process will enable unified efforts, and true representation of stakeholders by the Ambassadors.

Ambassadors will also retain their role reporting to the movement on pertinent issues in identity, and set the agenda priorities for the annual ID4Africa conference in collaboration with the ID4Africa General Secretariat. The position was created in 2016 with 6 Ambassadors, to create a liaison between the ID4Africa movement and the identity authorities in their respective countries.

One Ambassador is appointed for each country when thresholds for country and personal engagement and government seniority level are met. Among returning countries, 28 of 29 Ambassadors from the 2018 class have returned for 2019. Several other countries expressed interest in establishing Ambassadors, Atick says, but did not yet meet the requirements.

New Ambassadors and country delegates include Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, which gives the organization a major presence in North Africa, as well as sovereign island nations such as Mauritius, where some circumstances and challenges related to identity are significantly different from other areas of Africa. Other countries increasing their level of participation to with an Ambassador include Burundi, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Botswana, and Zambia. In addition to extending the ID4Africa movement into all areas of Africa, Atick explains that the major increase provides the body with the critical mass necessary to take the next step in its evolution.

“Now we bring those people together, 43 of them in a council, then they essentially become a voice that can speak and advise,” he says. “That is something that you will see its impact in the next few years. Achieving this kind of coordination and harmonization of capacity in Africa is the first step towards achieving harmonization of practices. If the people are not harmonized, the systems will not be harmonized.”

The first annual meeting of the ID4Africa Identity Council in Johannesburg on June 17, 2019 will be dedicated to defining the roles and responsibilities of the group, and to identify priorities for Pan-African dialogues and necessary working groups.

Atick believes that for the achievement of SDG 16.9, the effort needs to continue to be institutionalized, with ID4Africa’s annual meeting as “the tip of the iceberg.” He says he has never been more confidant of that outcome.

“This is the dream that we had from the beginning, but we could not realize it because there was not enough critical mass, and enough seniority, and buy-in, and now we’re reaching that level.”

As Liberia’s National Identification Registry Executive Director Tiah Nagbe told an audience during ID4Africa 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria, “Africa used to be the tail, now it is becoming the head” in the pursuit of universal identity.

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