AU program will standardize documentation of people

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With the goal of digitizing civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and African Union have jointly developed a ‘digital transformation strategy’ that will be adopted by African countries assuming heads of state approve it during their January meeting.
CRVS was one of the major reasons the continent wanted to modernize the system and enhance the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).
Experts in the sector said that digitizing the CRVS is crucial to realizing the continental free trade agreement. To come up with the modernized system ECA has opened a centre of excellence at its headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Oliver Chinganya, Director of the African Statistics Centre at ECA, says “We have set up a centre of excellence of a basic digitization of economy, trade and ID. So the whole idea is to see how we can help countries harmonize their regulations and come up with the principles for digitization.”
“Because we found out in most of the countries they are doing some kind of digitization of some sort but these are fragmented and separated approaches that are not very useful. Because then the people provided them with what I call vendors, they go on for a short time and provide an activity and after some time they go away then the project dies and everything collapses,” he told Capital in relation with the 5th Conference of African Ministers responsible for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics held in Lusaka, Zambia a week ago.
He said that during this term ECA is coming up with a process of helping countries with common standards, common principles, which harmonizes the regulations but also with a system that communicates with others in an operable system since it was launched last November.
“Now we are trying to see how we can quickly operationalize this. We have not really started giving the support to countries but what we are doing now is assessment of what kind of system the countries have and on the basis of that we have been able start developing assisting countries,” Chinganya added.
He told Capital that ECA is also working with the African Union to boost the scheme jointly.
“We are also working with the African Union and developing a ‘digital transformation strategy’ that will be presented in January to head of states in the coming African Union summit in Addis Ababa for endorsement,” the Director of the African Statistics Centre explained.
So this can be owned at the country level in terms of the principles of harmonization, according to him.
Regarding the CFTA he said that countries do not have a very robust digital system in the country, it will have some problems because then they want a system where one is crossing a country into another country and they should be able to have a system that process people very quickly.
“The only way you can do it that if you have digitized system to be able to trade with another person in another country. Because if you have everything is digitized it means when you are going to the system you know the firm or company that is already having what you want in the system,” the continental organization relevant office head said.
He added that: “if don’t have that system then you cannot easily trade and this we are saying can we make sure countries have use the technology, can we leverage on the technology that is available now and benefit on the CFTA process and so forth.”
So it would be very important for countries to leverage this. But it also very clear most of the countries are using a digital economy that not completely fully embraced, so we are looking for a situation where we have a complete reference of the digital economy.
At the conference Chinganya emphasized the importance of digitalization as a facilitator of CRVS.
“We have gathered here for the 5th conference of CRVS with an expanded mandate and with the full acknowledgement that civil registration is the foundation of legal identity – a universal requirement for SDG16.9 to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration. It also needs to harness the dividends of digitalization,” he said.
The Fifth Conference of African Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration ended in Lusaka, Zambia, Friday with member states agreeing to scale-up efforts to address the huge identity gap that exists on the continent.
The ministers urged their governments to avail more financial resources to help them revamp and modernize the continent’s CRVS and ID management systems to ensure they leave no one behind.
Partners were also called on to scale-up financial assistance to the Africa Programme on Accelerated Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (APAI-CRVS) which is leading the continent’s efforts to create modern and comprehensive CRVS systems.