Addis Ababa, 18 November 2018


Good morning. I am very happy to be here with you. I wish to thank the African Union Commission and the Economic Commission for Africa for organising this important session. Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, thank you for being here, having come all this way for this meeting.

Our continent must take full advantage of the digital revolution to empower our citizens and enhance transparency in government and the private sector. This cannot happen without full ownership of personal data. Data has to be stored in safe and trusted systems that protect privacy and are difficult for criminals to breach.

Recent data hacks at major companies have illustrated the need for an approach that places data ownership in the hands of ID holders, and not platform providers. But digital ID is not just a source of risk, it is really about increasing confidence when individuals and businesses transact with each other, particularly across borders.

In the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area and our wider integration agenda, it is critically important for African identity systems to be interoperable. That requires technology, both software and the physical chips that process data. I am confident that we can produce and maintain these systems using African know-how and companies.

The right legal and regulatory framework is also essential, but the current landscape is fragmented. We need to correct that. The idea behind this initiative by the African Union and the Economic Commission for Africa, to whom I extend my great thanks, is to establish a common African technical standard for digital ID platforms.

It builds on the Malabo Convention on Electronic Transactions, Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection, as well as the African Union Commission’s recently-launched Personal Data Protection Guidelines.

We need to go further and really get ahead of the curve with this technology. Countries such as India have achieved tremendous results with digital identity, but achieving a harmonised framework at a regional level would be a first, and would put Africa at the forefront of the digital economy.

That is why we will work towards adopting a comprehensive Assembly decision on Digital ID for Africa at the next African Union Summit. We are counting on your support and input as we pursue this goal, which holds so much promise for our continent’s future.

I thank you very much.