The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity

Civil Registration Centre for Development, The Hague and the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, Johannesburg

The Economics of Civil Identity Management: The Case of Africa

After half a century of stagnation, civil registration in Africa has shown hesitant signs of progress. Yet, there are still countries where registration rates have retrogressed, which is uncommon in any other part of the world. Birth registration, still, covers less than one in two births. At the same time hi-tech national ID systems are launched and elections are conducted using sophisticated identification technology and ICT at considerable cost. The モAfrican wayヤ of budgeting for and sequencing of the development of civil registration and identification systems in Africa is unorthodox. Industrialized countries have followed a quite different roadmap to reach nearly complete coverage levels and high degrees of reliability, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their civil identity systems. This departure of the orthodoxy of developing the civil identity management infrastructure is raising several questions, addressed in the other articles in this issue. While touching on these questions, this paper is, rather, focused on the economic aspect: is the モother pathwayヤ economically sound from a countryメs (rather than from a providerメs, or any other micro- economic) point of view? Which way is in the common interest, which way is モgood governanceヤ of an institution central to モgood governanceヤ and economic growth? In order to answer the question central to this paper the national identity management orthodoxy is discussed, as well as the status of and developments in civil registration, the use of national IDs and voter registration, and how these are related functionally and organizationally. Estimates of the costs of civil registration, national ID systems and voter registration are presented. The savings possible from civil identity management orthodoxy are estimated to well exceed the amount The World Bank and World Health Organization have estimated that the fixing of civil registration worldwide would cost.

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The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity