ADDIS ABABA, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Tuesday urged African countries to promote innovative ways to close the existing identity gap across the continent as more than 500 million Africans currently have no legal identity.
The urgent call was made by Oliver Chinganya, Director of the ECA's Africa Centre for Statistics, as he emphasized the need to heavily invest on the promotion of innovative ways so as to close the current legal identity gap across the African content through the provision of all forms of digital identity tools.
"It is important that as a continent we modernize and harmonize civil registration and digital identity systems, which are foundational to legal identity ecosystems," an ECA statement quoted Chinganya as saying on Tuesday.
"Vital statistics systems that enable member States to monitor progress towards the sustainable development goals and Agenda 2063 should be strengthened," Chinganya added.
The ECA, which estimated more than 500 million people across Africa have no legal identity, of which about 120 million are children who do not have birth certificates, also emphasized the need to exert concerted efforts to bridge the gap identity.
"We need to make sure that we get everyone in the picture. The ECA, working with its partners, is fully committed to supporting our member states to ensure we use innovation and technological solutions to help establish well-functioning civil registration and vital statistics systems to achieve universal coverage and complete the registration of four vital events in the life of a person -- birth, death, marriages and even divorce," the ECA director stressed.
The ECA made the call ahead of a high-level conference of African ministers responsible for civil registration, slated from October 14 to 18, which is organized by the African Union (AU) in collaboration with the UN-ECA and the African Development Bank.
The high-level ministerial conference will also bring together various UN agencies such as the UN Population Fund, UN Children's Fund, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as World Health Organization.
According to the ECA, the conference "aims to provide strategic and policy guidance on pathways towards holistic, innovative and integrated civil registration and vital statistics and digital identity management systems to help close the identity gap in Africa."
African ministers, who are set to gather from all AU member countries, are also expected "to chart the way forward by identifying key challenges" in the implementation of the Africa Programme on Accelerated Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics at the regional and national levels and proposing solutions, it was noted.
The continental gathering is also expected to bring about "strong support and commitment from countries and development partners, including the provision of adequate funding and technical support at the regional and country levels, for the continuous strengthening of civil registration and vital statistics systems as the foundation for robust and sustainable legal identity systems."
The ministers are also expected to reach an agreement on the strategic direction for a comprehensive legal framework, adopting technological innovations, improving interoperability and strengthening institutional capacity and coordination across ministries and agencies for the integrated improvement of civil registration and vital statistics and identity management systems.
According to the ECA, during the conference, AU member states are also expected to declare their commitment to ensuring integrated civil registration and vital statistics and digital identity management systems reach their full potential in line with the global Sustainable Development Goals and the AU's continental development Agenda 2063.