Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo says 750,000 people in Africa have no proof of legal identity because of not being registered at birth.

And United Nations Economic Commission for Africa director Oliver Chinganya says if civil registration is done properly with end-to-end data, there will be no need for nations to conduct the national census.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya says an accurate number of the births and citizens in the country helps his Ministry plan for social and health services.

The trio were speaking at the Fifth Conference of Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics at Intercontinental Hotel, Tuesday.

“All African countries are striving to achieve the aspirations of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 16.9, which seeks to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration by the year 2030. And leaving no one behind. And you may wish to note that, according to the World Bank, it is estimated that 1.5 million people lack proof of legal identity, out of which, about half live in Africa. This lack of a form of identity in Africa is compounded by the fact that most births go unregistered and, consequently, birth certificates not issued. The lack of identity increases vulnerability with regard to access to services and may lead to statelessness. Researchers have referred this to ‘scandal of invisibility.’ We have got some geographical areas in some African countries, which are very difficult to access, geographically, and where we have had births of these children occur and probably die without being registered anywhere. So, they have physically existed, but not recognized and identified,” Kampyongo said.

He said that the conference provided an opportunity for nations to reflect on issues regarding civil registration as well as find solutions for addressing its challenges.

“And so, these are critical issues that we will be sitting to reflect on as member states. The main objectives of the Fifth Conference of Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration are to identify key challenges in the implementation of the African programme for accelerated improvements of civil registration and vital statistics at regional and national levels; reaffirming the commitment of governments and development partners to CRVs and identity management through holistic approach that strengthen institution mechanisms for accelerated improvements of civil registration, vital statistics and identity management systems on the continent; and to review and share best practices from African countries on civil registration and vital statistics and identity management system digitalization processes using appropriate information technology infrastructure and improving innovative business processes to ensure that universal CRVs systems are interoperable with national identity management and various government functions,” he said

Speaking at the same function, UN country representative Dr Coumbia Gadio observed that more than half of the children in Africa remain unregistered registered at birth.

“Many African countries still lack adequate viable complete and digital registration systems. Unfortunately, more than half of the children in Africa are not registered at birth, a foundation for any citizen registration system. These are most citizens exposed to poverty and also vulnerabilities. Not being registered, uncounted, and excluded [and] by exception, this affects the ability to enjoy universal human rights and social protection benefits. Migrants, refugees and those displaced through humanitarian crisis are in particular the vulnerable when they lack identities and travel documents. A complete civil registration system mean millions of African people have come into this world and left without leaving a trace of official records. This Fifth Africa Conference of Ministers provides the ideal platform for the sharing of experiences, policy guidance and lessons to learn among countries and governments,” Dr Gadio said.

And Dr Chilufya said knowing the accurate numbers of the all the births and citizens of the country helped his Ministry to plan for social health services.

“The President of the Republic of Zambia His Excellency Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu is leading a revolution, a transformation agenda that is focusing on creating access to social services for all Zambians. These social services include health services. It is important that we know the numbers that we are planning for as we talk about provision of social services to all. So, inclusiveness summons us to the table to ensure that we have accurate data. Therefore, investing in civil registration systems enables government to plan adequately and inform policy and enables a multi-sectoral approach to ensure access to social services in the country. Immunization to ensure child survival is improved requires that we know where every child is. As we plan for reaching every child in every part of Zambia, we see this opportunity as a rare one to ensure that we are able to track every child and link every child to the critical child serving interventions,” said Dr Chilufya.

Meanwhile, Chinganya said if civil registration was done properly with end-to-end data, there will not be need for nations to conduct national census.

The Fifth Conference of Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics, which runs October 14-18 is being held under the theme: “innovative civil registration and vital statistics system, foundation for legal identity management.”