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Trusted identities key to sustainable growth in Africa

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019 00:00 |
Huduma namba. Photo/Courtesy

Antoine Grenier

African countries are looking to provide legal identity to all citizens to step up continuous development.

Setting up an integrated national identity management ecosystem is the most sustainable way to provide a reliable legal identity to all.

The benefits of an integrated national identity management ecosystem in Africa go beyond national borders.

Once again, Kenya has maintained a continental lead as a trailblazer on the adoption of technological systems for social-economic development with the recent Huduma Namba mass registration.

Successful registration of close to 40 million citizens and foreigners living in Kenya is a major milestone on the ongoing global efforts to adopt trusted identities as a key ingredient for growth.

By good measure, one of the fundamental rights of any individual is to have a trusted identity, regardless of origin or social status. 

Today, around 1.1 billion people in the world are without any form of State-recognised legal identification, either paper-based or digital.

Through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN has made it its priority to give every human being on earth a legal ID by 2030.

This issue disproportionately affects women and children from rural areas in Africa, but the continent is changing at a fast pace as attested by Huduma Namba success.

Today, legal identity is a concern for many countries in Africa and beyond. Registering a country’s population in a national population register is important for many reasons—fair elections, limiting fraud, sustaining development and economic growth, making macroeconomic decisions, and much more. 

Currently, there is a limited number of countries with a national population registry and a significant part of the population is without legal ID.

The World Bank-fronted Identification for development (ID4D) initiative, stresses that giving legal IDs to the world’s population is important for sustaining economic development, especially in Africa.

This can be achieved through an integrated ID management ecosystem. To achieve this, we need to create a national ID management system that gives a legal identity to each citizen from birth and throughout life.

In other words, we need to build a bridge between the civil registry (which records vital events such as birth, death, marriage and divorce), the national population registry (provides individuals with their unique legal identity) and functional registries, which make use of an identity for different uses like issuing passports. 

This infrastructure must be sustainable, remain up-to-date and ensure any individual is well identified. A legal identity ensures one can vote, access education, social care, financial services and welfare benefits.

Creating an integrated identity management ecosystem is also important for reinforcing a fair and just democratic electoral process

In terms of international development, a country who can demonstrate its ability to efficiently control and manage the identity of who is getting in and who is getting out, is sending a message of assurance and confidence to the world, resulting in more international travel, trade and economic growth. The writer is senior vice president at IDEMIA Public Security & Identity–Africa

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