Durban: An efficient civil registration system and accurate vital statistics were essential elements in the African integration agenda, says Home Affairs Minister and African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
Speaking shortly after taking over as the chair of the 2nd Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Conference in Durban on Thursday, Dlamini Zuma stressed the importance civil registration and vital statistics played on the continent.
“In the 21st century, regional integration and the growth of African markets and intra African trade must become the main driver of economic development. This is at the heart of the shared vision of development that informs the agenda of the African Union and our economic regions,” she noted.
However, the integration of Africa was not just about political and economic integration. The free movement of the continent’s people was equally important and crucial for Africa integration, she added.
“This cannot be managed effectively if we do not know who our citizens are.”
For this reason, the conference, where Africa’s progress will be reviewed and the way forward plotted out, was crucial for continental integration as well as, health, education and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Equally important was the need to mobilise Africa’s citizens.
“We should embark on a serious continent-wide campaign to conscientise and raise awareness amongst our citizens, so that working together with governments, we can improve the compliance with civil registration and vital statistics,” she said.
Dlamini Zuma was hopeful that the recommendations of this Conference would make a positive impact on improving the lives of all Africans for a better Africa.
She cautioned that the road ahead would not be easy but governments needed to be committed for the long haul.
“We should believe in our own power as a continent and should not be swayed by perceptions that we are powerless. We must begin to claim our destiny as people, as nations and as a continent. Our diversity is our greatest strength,” Dlamini Zuma said.
In his address to the conference, Commissioner of the Economic Affairs at the AUC, Maxwell Mkwezalamba, said civil registration and vital statistics played a role in informing policy at national, regional and continental levels, as well as the planning and the evaluation of developmental programmes.
He highlighted the need to improve the civil registration systems on the continent and to ensure the accuracy of vital statistics.
They also needed to be integrated and holistically linked to avoid uncoordinated and fragmented resource use.
Comprehensive civil registration and vital statistics could benefit individual, households, communities, government institutions and non-governmental organisations, he added.
Mkwezalamba pledged the African Union Commission’s support for the implementation of the recommendations that arise from the conference.
In his address read out at the conference, the outgoing Executive Security of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Abdoulie Janneh, said an assessment done of African countries after the first conference suggested that a long struggle lay ahead.
Programmes to improve the efficiency and coverage of civil registration were still in their infancy, and political, technical, human resources and infrastructure challenges had to be overcome.
However, he also noted that progress had been made in the past two years.