An estimated 500 million people in Africa have no official identification (ID), a situation that is contributing to marginalisation and exclusion of millions of Africans, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has noted.
A statement by ECA’s Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, has urges African leaders to initiate interventions in digital ID.
Songwe made the remarks during a high-level meeting on Sunday at the margins of the just concluded 11th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa from Nov. 17 to 18.
The Digital ID for the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 meeting discussed opportunities, risks and lessons for Digital Identity in the African Market.
“An estimated 500 million people in Africa have no official ID, and in many ways, the lack of robust identification, which is underpinned by a poor Civil Registration and Vital Statistics system on the continent, has contributed to marginalization and exclusion of many,” said Songwe.
A Good Digital ID Platform for Africa would ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises, which constitute 80 per cent of African enterprises, benefit from this opportunity, Songwe said.
“Digital ID is an important enabler for access to social and political services, as well as financial and economic inclusion,” she added.
The benefits of digital ID is said to go a long way towards preventing vote rigging in elections, reducing leaks in the management of government payroll as well as social intervention programs and improving access of the poor, to financial services, according to the ECA.
Technology-enabled business platforms that create value by facilitating exchanges via business to business (B2b) platforms could represent 10 trillion U.S. dollars in socio-economic value creation from 2016 to 2025 globally, figures from the ECA indicated.
The Digital Identity for the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 high-level meeting, co-hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the AU Commission, discusses opportunities, risks and lessons for digital identification in the African context, as well as on the need for Africa to embark on a digital identification drive.
During the high-level meeting the ECA and the Omidyar Network have announced a partnership to establish legal digital identities in Africa.
The partnership is said to work towards ECA’s support to the AU Commission Digital Identity Platform for Africa.
The support by Omidyar Network will also be instrumental in the establishment of a Centre of Excellence on Digital Identity and Data Privacy and building the capacity of senior officials in this regard.
According to the ECA, while few African countries have already made progress in developing digital ID systems as a basis for legal IDs, “Africa as a whole is yet to fully harness the benefits of digital ID.”
Digital identity will facilitate the participation of Africans in the digital economy, which is expected to grow in Africa to over 300 billion U.S. dollars by 2025, according to the ECA.