Address by South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, at the 5th Annual Meeting of the ID4Africa Movement, held at Emperors Palace Convention Centre, Ekurhuleni, on 18 June 2019
Programme Director Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi
Executive Chairman of ID4Africa, Dr Joseph Atick
African government officials
Representatives of international agencies and development organisations
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to have the honour of addressing the 5th Annual Meeting of the ID4Africa Movement.
This Annual Meeting has become an appropriate place for sharing experiences and best practices. It allows for the identification of challenges in the context of development, and for setting priorities for the identity community. We are pleased to note that you have attracted over 1500 delegates from 95 countries, including 50 African nations and over 650 decision-makers from a cross-section of government stakeholders are participating in the meeting.
We are especially pleased at the participation of representatives of international organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Statistics Division, United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Organization for Migration.
We note with appreciation, the participation of government representatives of the Netherlands, Denmark, France, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Philippines and Japan.
The challenge of ensuring efficient, accurate and consistent civic registration on our continent was raised sharply at the first conference of African Ministers responsible for civil registration, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in August 2010, organised jointly by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank, the African Union Commission and the Federal Republic of Ethiopia.
The 2010 ministerial conference explored ways of improving civil registration and vital statistics systems in Africa, a critical focus area it had extracted from the regional workshop on civil registration and vital statistics systems earlier convened in Tanzania, in June 2009.
South Africa has made significant progress on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics and to serve as a model in light of its rate of coverage, outreach programmes, community participation and online birth registration in health facilities.
In terms of our policy, civil registration denotes continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events pertaining to the population as provided through regulations in accordance with legal requirements of respective countries. In 2012, South Africa hosted the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) Conference in Durban. African countries were encouraged to continue developing policies, systems and legal frameworks.
That work has not yet been completed. This is evidenced by the themes of this 2019 ID4Africa Annual Meeting. We still have institutions responsible for public administration and social services that do not have basic personal data and information necessary for managing and monitoring their mandated functions of public resources.
We are therefore pleased ID4Africa has broadened that work. It now includes diverse stakeholders, from government, the private sector and international agencies and donors.
This we welcome, precisely because collaboration among these stakeholders will ensure we overcome persistent deficiencies in civic registration and identification systems. As a multi-stakeholder movement, ID4Africa has a role to play in promoting transparent and responsible adoption of digital identity by various states on the continent.
Since its inception, in 2014, it has emerged as a forum providing a platform for government agencies to develop expertise, share experiences and build capacity around the important subject of how digital identity can support a wide range of government services for citizens and for accelerating development broadly.
I trust that this 5th Annual Meeting, in South Africa, will assist ID4Africa to pursue its primary objectives, including:
- Promoting digital identity, to enhance people’s lives from birth to death,
- Providing a platform for South-South knowledge transfer, and
- Facilitating active Africa-centred engagements for the identity community.
The overarching theme for this year’s ID4Africa Annual Meeting is, ‘Identity Ecosystems for Service Delivery’. It affirms that identity is not only a right, but a tool that can be utilized to empower citizens and to promote socio-economic development and provision of quality services.
South Africa is among the many countries on the continent hard at work to develop integrated, secure, digital identification systems. It has not been an easy road to travel. This work started in earnest after the dawn of democracy in 1994.
We had inherited a fragmented civil registration system, largely, predicated on a divisive race discourse. It was a discriminatory system designed to systematically deny Africans of citizenship. Only 4.5 million white people in the country had enjoyed access to acceptable levels of civic services.
At the inception of democracy our immediate task was to forge a common, non-racial, and non-sexist, national identity in an endeavour to deconstruct the civic divisions and inequalities of our colonial and apartheid past.
Accordingly, as one of the landmarks of the democratic era and its transformation agenda, we introduced a common, compulsory identity document for all citizens, irrespective of race, and established a single national Department of Home Affairs.
The ID, popularly known as the Green-barcoded ID book, of 1986, was then issued also to the African majority, a right hitherto denied to Africans in the former apartheid-designed homelands.
In this manner, we succeeded in providing a common ID for all citizens, and, officially, opened doors for citizens to exercise their rights and to access services, including, registering births, assessing social grants, opening bank accounts, seeking employment, voting and enrolling at school.
Over the years, we have learned that the full value of data from civil registries comes when they are properly integrated within government systems – for example, with the statistical institutions, population registers, national ID systems, and voter registration systems.
It is possible to do this through 21st century Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems drawing on the availability of information and communication technology and innovations linking health records with civil registries.
When the birth of a South African is registered, a child’s name and birth date are linked to an identity number and a record is created on the National Population Register (NPR). This gives the child an identity as a citizen, with all constitutional rights and obligations accompanying such status.
The SA Department of Home Affairs seeks to ensure a single entry point into the NPR, at birth. To this end, the law demands that parents register their new born babies within 30 days of birth. Once a child has a birth certificate, that child can be issued with a passport, and can enjoy access to services offered by other government departments, like Health and Education.
Home Affairs in South Africa, has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the country’s Health Department, with the sole purpose of ensuring births at health facilities are registered.
To date it has connected 391 health facilities in public hospitals. Mothers who give birth in these facilities can now register their children and receive birth certificates before leaving the facility.
Home Affairs South Africa is currently engaged in a pilot to automate registration of births, marriages and deaths. It prints names of parents in their children’s passports, for ease of travel.
As part of the CRVS objectives, in the achievement of Agenda 2030, as outlined in the country’s National Development Plan, South Africa is expected to be at 90% on birth registration by 2030 and at 100% in 2063. In the 2018/2019 financial year, the country reached 85.7% on birth registration.
As with other organisations, the department’s policies and priorities have evolved over the years. Systems that were considered to be state of the art during the 1990s had proved inadequate to meet the ever-changing needs of the department.
Accordingly, in 2011, Home Affairs SA initiated a system-wide modernization programme. Since then, it has made tremendous progress in creating a responsible, credible, digital, paperless and reliable identification system, along similar lines to those now agreed by ID4Africa.
In July 2013, the green ID book, which was manual and paper-based, and thus open to manipulation, was replaced with a new, smart ID card, which is very secure.
It has a readable and verifiable card-chip and embedded biographic data. More than 13 million smart ID cards have been issued in the quest to replace about 38 million green-barcoded ID books.
The smart ID card is an end-to-end process which is wholly automated. It is supported by a live capture system. Of the 412 Home Affairs offices in the country, 193 are modernized and can thus process the new smart ID cards and machine readable passports.
From this experience, we are better placed to argue for the adoption of identity ecosystems for service delivery, suggested in the conference theme. Digital transformation has shown great potential to open new pathways towards smarter platforms and new ways of service delivering.
The department has introduced innovative modes of service delivery. It has launched an electronic platform – eHomeAffairs – through which citizens can now apply for new smart ID cards and passports online, from the comfort of their homes or offices, by simply visiting the website.
The eHomeAffairs portal was made possible by the partnership of Home Affairs with four major commercial banks in South Africa – ABSA, First National Bank, Nedbank and Standard Bank – entered into in April 2016 and piloted in 13 bank branches in Gauteng and Western Cape Provinces.
Going-forward, and in line with the goal of building a ‘future-fit home-affairs’, focus is on implementing a single source of information about all clients, with both biographic and biometric technologies. The new national identity system South Africa seeks to build will serve as a master source for civics and immigration management, with key elements such as the following:
- Records of persons throughout their lifespan (from the cradle to the grave),
- Birth, marriage and death records of residents (citizens, permanent residents, asylum seekers and refugees,
- All persons entering the country will have their biometrics captured during the visa application process or at the point of entry,
- Processing and storing of asylum seekers and refugees’ applications,
- Records of visitors who enter and leave the country, and
- Records of illegal persons in the country (registration of birth and death).
The modernisation of South Africa’s Home Affairs, when fully and successfully implemented, will reengineer and automate most of the key processes of the department and yield a significantly enhanced national identification system, and a credible national population register. This modernisation process is underpinned by five key business pillars, namely:
- A single view of home affairs clients,
- Integrity of home affairs data,
- Secured borders while embracing visitors,
- Improved citizen (client) experience, and
- A citizen / client oriented workforce.
We will achieve our goals to the extent that we enhance the interaction of the state with its citizens, by being more customer-centric, within a secure environment. With the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, the ultimate goal is to utilize technology in bringing government services closer to the people, where they live.
We look forward to sharing experiences with international agencies, the private sector and other government representatives on the critical areas organized as thematic tracks for the 2019 ID4Africa Annual Meeting, namely: foundational identity; identity for inclusion; migration and borders; identity and democracy and advanced technologies and processes.
We note that what is also taking center stage this year is the complex issue of privacy, data protection and appropriate use of identity. This is addressed through several activities embedded in the overall programme. The Roundtable of African Data Protection Authorities is one example. It aims to forge a common approach to data protection and privacy as they relate to identity systems.
We trust that the ID4Africa Movement will continue playing a pivotal role in empowering the identity community in Africa, and in promoting dialogue and knowledge exchange. It is in this way, as Dr Atick had rightly said, that as African countries, we may best deal with a myriad of identification problems facing us, while reinforcing our capacities in this vital area of our work.
The 2019 ID4Africa Annual Meeting should build on the achievements of the 4th Annual Meeting held in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in April last year, by, among other things, assisting in defining a context for the adoption and deployment of responsible identity systems, including legal frameworks, institutional arrangements, governance, data protection, privacy and human rights.
We thank the leadership of ID4Africa for bringing to South Africa, the 2019 engagement on the advancement of legal and digital identity.