African governments called upon to deal with ‘Scandal of invisibility’ of citizens

Jacob Zuma – South Africa president

South African President, Jacob Zuma has called on African leaders to deal with the situation known as the ‘scandal of invisibility’ that many African citizens end up in.

It is the situation where citizens on the continent live and die without ever being registered.

“Today, there are still people on the African continent who are born and die without ever leaving a trace in any legal record of their existence. This is a phenomenon that has come to be known as the ‘scandal of invisibility’,” he said.

“It has meant that the most vulnerable people in Africa remain unseen and not counted. They practically do not exist,” he added.

President Zuma was speaking Thursday September 6, 2012 at the opening of the Second Meeting of African Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Durban, South Africa.

Underscoring the importance of civil registration, President Zuma narrated how South Africa’s infrastructure was developed under the Apartheid regime to exclude majority of the country’s citizens. He said after the collapse of apartheid in 1994, most of the marginalised people who moved into the cities were compelled to live at the peripherals because the cities were not built to contain them.

“We can’t fulfill our development agenda unless we know where we live, work and go to school,” he said.

He said in this age of globalization, and greater interdependence among countries, civil registration serves more than just the purpose of identifying one’s nationality. Civil registration, he said, serves to facilitate Africa’s integration and smooth movement of people among countries of the continent.

He indicated that civil registration has far reaching implications for development, especially, with regards to education, health and among others, social security. It can also be used to monitor the MDGs, and other development efforts on the continent, he said.

“Civil registration further contributes to countries’ abilities to monitor development. It is also an important tool for democracy and the compilation of voters’ rolls,” he said.

The conference is being organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union, African Development Bank and the South African government.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, in Durban, South Africa.

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