ID4D Country Diagnostic: Ethiopia

Published: 1/Jun/2017
Source: World Bank

This report documents the most important types of identification that are currently being used, as well as the new system that is being planned in Ethiopia and the legal and institutional context in which they exist. It is a somewhat unique case in that the most important form of identification is the kebele ID card which is issued by local administrators in more than 16,000 different locales. The kebele card confers legal identity. It allows individuals to directly or indirectly (by providing sufficient proof to obtain a different form of identification) to conduct almost any public or private transaction, including obtaining a passport or voting in an election. Moreover, it is very accessible and based on anecdotal evidence; most Ethiopian adults have one. In many ways, it functions as the de facto national ID yet there is no central registry, no way to ensure uniqueness, and an extremely weak credential that can be easily faked. Recent legislation replacing this system with a new, modern national ID has not been implemented more than four years after its passage.

Births and deaths are also recorded at the kebele level where in most cases, a list of children along with other members of each household is maintained in ledgers. The number of births (and deaths) is reported by each kebele to the state government which monitors what are the equivalent of vital statistics. These functions would, in most countries, be performed by the civil registry. However, this institution, known in Ethiopia as the Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA), was only established in 2014. It began to issue birth and death certificates and record other vital events in August 2016.

In short, the Ethiopian identification system is in transition. It is in the process of moving from a highly decentralized system that functioned reasonably well in a predominantly rural environment with limited migration, to a modern system of civil registration and, eventually, a national ID based on biometrically determined uniqueness and a secure credential. Ideally, these two elements of Ethiopia’s identification system would be linked through the issuance at birth of a unique number to be applied when the child becomes an adult. This report describes the many challenges that Ethiopia’s government will have to overcome along with some possible solutions as its new identification system is born

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Themes: Identity Documents, Birth Registration, ID Documents and Passports
Regions: Ethiopia
Year: 2017