Executive Chairman of ID4Africa, Dr Joseph Atick
Federal Government of Nigeria
His Excellency, Acting High Commissioner of South Africa Moss Moroe
Identity experts and distinguished delegates and
Fellow South Africans
On behalf of the Republic of South Africa and the Department of Home Affairs, we extend with humility, warmest greetings to all of you. We thank you for inviting us to the 4th Annual meeting; and we express our heartfelt gratitude to the Government and people of Nigeria for receiving us.
Esteemed Delegates, allow me to express my profound congratulations to the Ambassadors from 29 countries who were appointed for the 2018 Ambassador Class. Indeed these Ambassadors represent a growing cadre of senior-level government officials who are passionate about digital identity and socio-economic development on the continent.
The Republic of South Africa is truly honoured to be offered the singular honour to host the 5th Annual Meeting of the ID4Africa movement, in 2019. The ID4 Africa movement contributes immensely to the development of digital transformations of identity on our beloved continent. It brings together Government Authorities, International Agencies and Industry, all under one roof, to chart a way-forward for the continent and its people in this important area of identity management.
And indeed we are making progress, with the support of partners and stakeholders. Since South Africa held the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Conference in 2002, there is growing improvement in the area of civil registration and identity in many of our countries.
As announced earlier, more African countries have sent official delegations to ID4Africa 2018. This huge interest bears testimony to the importance and pan-African commitment of this forum, representing a broad spectrum of identity stakeholders. Recently, in Rwanda, South Africa and 43 other African states, signed the Kigali declaration signalling movement towards a free trade area envisioned in the African Continental Free Trade Area. This is to enable free movement of people while encouraging trade and investment across our borders.
Accordingly, innovations we make in our biometrics and identity systems will support these continental efforts to build policy and systems vital for free movement across secure borders. By digitally transforming the border, we will drive the African Union agenda of deepening African economic integration, of promoting agricultural development, food security, industrialisation, economic transformation and improving security.
The leadership back home is keenly aware of the reality that digital identity is a key if we are to empower our citizens on the African continent. One exciting example should suffice.
We partnered with the Gauteng Department of Education to support the online learner registration programme for government schools, in validating ID numbers in real time. A parent enters an ID number and the system validates, then uploads his or her name and surname automatically. The same with the ID number on the child’s Birth Certificate.
About this success, the Gauteng MEC of Education, Mr Panyaza Lesufi, said something that speaks aptly to the object of this gathering and of the challenge of African governments to seize opportunities posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And I quote:
“Imagine what it would take to operate a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week service delivery provincial desk where no resident’s concern would ever be overlooked...That would be service delivery at its best. The promise of e-government, is a more democratic, citizen and community-centred service delivery phenomena” (The Star, 18/04/2018). Close quote.
As with many other liberated colonial states, our problem has been that the new state has not regarded sufficiently the functions of the Department of Home Affairs as being strategic to economic development and national prosperity. It was therefore left inadequately resourced based on hitherto colonial standards of infrastructure, staffing and security.
Our goal is to invest in a relatively low-cost digital service for all citizens – an innovative service that would serve as a key enabler of economic development and social justice envisaged by many of us at the 2017 ID4Africa, in Namibia.
Programme Director, in a globalised, digital world the critical resource is secure, reliable data, and civil registration authorities will have to be the source of this data that is essential for development. Modern identity systems we are developing will be the very backbone of regional and African integration and development.
Fully in place, high-tech identity systems will support programmes geared to rid Africa of the shackles of colonial bondage and underdevelopment. Spin-offs will include enhanced civil registration across states.
With the fourth industrial revolution driving change in every aspect of social and economic life, we all must strive to embrace these changes, by among other things providing trusted national e-identity systems. In this regard, South Africa will be implementing a new Automated Biometric Integrated System towards the end of this year. It is observed in South Africa’s 2018 Mandate Paper (2018:24) which guides planning and budgeting of government departments, that:
“Ongoing technological change is driving down the cost of effective administrative, information and monitoring systems. A bedrock of such administrative systems is an effective identity system for citizens and visitors. It is therefore critical to ensure that the population register of the Department of Home Affairs and the electronic and card identification system include all citizens and visitors, and be of the highest integrity”.
Hence, South Africa is in the process of developing a National Identity System.
In closing, I would like to assure you that the Republic of South Africa stands ready to extend warm hospitalities to all of you in 2019. We are humbled by the gesture and the fact of receiving you in our young democracy you helped to create, through the selfless contributions you made in the struggle for liberation, often at the highest cost to your countries and people.
We trust that the 5th Annual meeting in South Africa will build on achievements of the 4th Annual Meeting held in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It should assist 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 are grateful to the Government of Nigeria for the warm hospitalities extended for the 4th ID4Africa Annual Meeting. Once more, thank you for the nomination. We are humbled.
I thank you!