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Africa has the capabilities: 20 African nations on track for SDG 16.9

Economic valuation of CRVS needed
Africa has the capabilities: 20 African nations on track for SDG 16.9

“We’re convinced there are 20 countries in Africa who can achieve the SDG, achieve Mission 100. And we believe actually that if we support the others, they’ll come closer, if not achieve Mission 100,” said Cornelius Williams, director of the Child Protection Program at UNICEF, speaking in the ID4Africa Livecast devoted to civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS).

Mission 100 or the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.9 is for legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030.

Williams was speaking alongside Oliver Chinganya, director of the African Centre for Statistics at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on the outcome of the COM6 meeting held in Addis Ababa in October 2022. The meeting (full name: Experts Group Meeting of the 6th Conference of African Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration) brings together the heads of civil registration to exchange insights and knowledge.

Chinganya pointed out that this time the heads of health services were invited to the collaboration, or twinning, of civil registration and health to boost progress. There was a thread of home-grown solutions throughout, though he acknowledged more needed to be done to get more participation from the health sector.

“We are convinced that Africa has the talent and can come together to produce joint assets that can be shared and tailored to the legal frameworks of these different countries,” said Williams.

Chinganya referenced Rwanda’s digitization of its CRVS and how Namibia’s registry had a MoU with its statistics authority to produce vital statistics reports.

Williams said an area to explore is how government departments interact as they need to determine who has and controls the budget. MoUs may require changes to the legal framework to allow interaction. He believes there is enough experience and evidence to build a template for the approach.

Chinganya said more work is need for interoperability between systems such as the civil registry and election commission, again with legislative change.

“Digitalization should be built with the principle of privacy protection,” said Williams, if the registry will supply more government departments.

Both agreed that civil registries should be universal. “Everyone must be counted,” said Chinganya, referring to the stateless and refugees.

“What is important is perhaps a discussion of do we need to make a distinction whether somebody is coming in or not as a refugee,” said the UNECA director, “but everyone must be able to be part of the civil registration.”

Williams warned that countries should not create a parallel system for the stateless or refugees, but make the national version more inclusive.

“One thing that we need to develop is what is the economic value of civil registration data?” said Chinganya. This important step will show other departments and policy makers the value of CRVS and what parts of the data have to be protected.

Ending on a positive note was Williams, talking about how the registrars at COM6 clearly knew what needed to be done: “The technical capability is here in Africa … interoperability, digitization – you name it, it’s there.”

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