South Africa ID Case Study

Published: 1/Jan/2019
Source: World Bank

South Africa’s approach to identification offers valuable lessons for countries looking to increase the coverage, robustness, and use of their ID systems. Since the end of apartheid, South Africa’s national identification system has been transformed from a tool of oppression to one for inclusion and the delivery of social services. The ID system is now closely integrated with civil registration, boasts high coverage among all segments of the population, and has been instrumental for effective service delivery and a cost-effective electoral process.

Providing tangible benefits and clear incentives for obtaining an ID has been an important aspect of South Africa’s successful road to universal civil registration and identification. The Child Support Grant, which was introduced to address income inequities, imposed the requirement of prior registration of birth for child beneficiaries and having a national ID for adult caregivers. The story of the improved coverage of civil registration (and the national ID) is thus very much the story of the rollout of the Child Support Grant. Another early impetus for registration were the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, which had required a massive voter registration campaign and issuance of IDs (the so-called “green book”). To keep identification accessible for all, birth registration within 30 days and obtaining a birth certificate as well as one’s first national identity document is free.

Nearly complete coverage of South Africa’s population with a proof of legal identity, in conjunction with the central, digitized database of records held by the Department of Home Affairs, has allowed the government to more accurately and affordably identify and target the population for public service delivery, and to leverage its ID system for other important use cases such as financial inclusion, elections, and government data collection and planning inclusion. Online authentication services offered to selected private sector parties, e.g., the financial sector, have also enabled the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to generate new revenues.

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Themes: Birth Registration, ID Documents and Passports
Regions: South Africa
Year: 2019