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Civil Registration and Vital Statistics for Africans


Durban International Convention Centre, Durban, KwaZulu Natal
Thursday 6 September 2012
African Ministers responsible for Civil Registration
African Ministers of Health
The Representative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
Commissioner of Economic Affairs of the African Union
Representatives of the UN Agencies (UNICEF, UNHCR, UNFPA etc)
Representative of the African Development Bank
Representative of the Health Metric Networks
Civil Registration Experts
Statisticians here present                 
Distinguished guests
Members of the Media
Ladies and gentlemen
I would like to express my gratitude for the election.  I accept this responsibility, on behalf of South Africa, with humility and honour.
We express our appreciation to the Minister of Justice of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, His Excellency Ato Berhan Hailu who has been the Chair of this Conference since 2010 when we convened for the first time.
This has certainly been a productive road from Addis Ababa to South Africa since that first Conference.  We are very happy to have reached this point where we can reconvene to deliberate on progress made and the way forward.
We appreciate the presence of Minister Hailu even more since he has travelled from Ethiopia only a few days after the funeral of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.  We will remember fondly that Prime Minister Zenawi welcomed us to the capital of his country in 2010 and set us on the road we now firmly find ourselves on.
As we remember Prime Minister Zenawi, we should do so as a man of many sterling qualities and attributes.  He was, amongst others, a leader of great character, fortitude, with an unwavering passion and commitment to the welfare of his own people and those of the Continent.
He was one of the best sons of our soil and was amongst those who led the struggle for a better Ethiopia in Africa and led his country in its fight against poverty and underdevelopment.  He remained focused on this goal.
He was a Prime Minister we could describe with the words of one of my favourite authors, Ben Okri, who said in his novel The Famished Road:
"The road will never swallow you. The river of your destiny will always overcome evil. May you understand your fate. Suffering will never destroy you, but will make you stronger. Success will never confuse you or scatter your spirit, but will make you fly higher into the good sunlight. Your life will always surprise you."
Distinguished guests,
As you know, in August 2010, the Ministers responsible for Civil Registration made a declaration in which they pledged support and commitment in taking civil registration and vital statistics to an accelerated growth trajectory during the landmark gathering in Addis Ababa.
I am sure you do not need convincing of the importance of vital statistics generated through the civil registration systems. The main source of this information is the continuous monitoring of births, deaths (including causes of death), marriages and divorces in the country over time.
The historic 2010 conference set into motion systematic and coordinated actions at the regional level from the Pan-African institutions and other UN partners to prepare grounds for supporting the member states in their endeavour to improve civil registration and vital statistics systems.
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.
We must however remember that integration of Africa is not just about political and economic integration.  The free movement of our people is equally important and crucial for our integration.  This cannot be managed effectively if we do not know who our citizens are.
This exercise is therefore also crucial for continental integration as well as, amongst others, health, education, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Distinguished guests
A good foundation has thus far been laid in order to carry out this vision forward.  The incorporation of the young people, particularly, young statisticians who are amongst us here today, will ensure continuity and drive the programme to improve civil registration in Africa into the future.
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.
We wish this meeting well in the Minister’s commitments to taking forward the agenda to improve the institutional and human infrastructure on civil registration and vital statistics.
Similarly we express the hope that the recommendations of this Conference must necessarily make a positive impact in improving the lives of all Africans for a better Africa.
Off course this will not be easy and we should as governments commit to being in this for the long haul.  This is not a sprint.  I hope that our partners who have been supporting us with continue to achieve this goal.  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.
We should be inspired by the words of Ben Okri, in his book "Way of Being Free", who writes:
"They tell me that nature is the survival of the fittest. And yet look at how wondrous gold and yellow fishes prosper amongst silent stones of the ocean beds, while sharks continuously prowl the waters in their impossible dreams of oceanic domination and while whales become extinct…how many butterflies and iguanas thrive, while elephants turn into endangered species, and while even the lions growl in their dwindling solitude.
There is no such thing as a powerless people. There are only those who have not seen and have not used their power and will. It would seem a miraculous feat, but it is possible for the under-valued ones to help create a beautiful new era in human history. New vision should come from those who suffer most and who love life the most."
Let us as governments bequeath to our children a continent of new vision, new possibilities and mostly a new reality.  Let us make the dreams of our founders come true.  Let this current generation, our generation, not be one of wasted opportunities.  Let us use our opportunities wisely and to the best advantage for all our people.  Let us claim this 21st century as our own.
We hope you will find time in your busy schedules to enjoy the hospitality, ubuntu and diversity of our country and its people.
I thank you.


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