Skip to Main Navigation
PRESS RELEASE September 25, 2018

African Leaders, the World Bank Group, and partners catalyze action to ensure that everyone in Africa has a digital identity by 2030

NEW YORK, September 25th, 2018 - African leaders, the World Bank Group, the United Nations, and other development partners met today on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly for the African Leaders Roundtable on Identification for Development to catalyze collective action, boost financial support, and harness innovation for the digital identification and civil registration agenda in Africa. The World Bank Group also announced Mission Billion, an innovation challenge to tackle the most critical issues in digital identification.

Digital identification systems in Africa, designed and implemented responsibly, offer long term dividends for financial inclusion, improved governance, the empowerment of women and girls, trade and migration for regional integration, and enable governments to invest in human capital by increasing access to health and education services, and social safety nets for the poor.

The World Bank Group’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative estimates that 1 billion people around the world are unable to prove their identity, with over half living in Africa. According to UNICEF, nearly two-thirds of children in Africa under the age of five do not have a birth certificate. Among the 99 countries included in the 2017 ID4D-Findex survey, Africa is home to 9 of the 10 countries with the lowest identity coverage, and 7 of the 10 countries with the widest gaps in coverage between men and women.

“Half of the one billion ‘invisible’ people without a formal identity are in Africa. No ID means no access to health, education, social protection and other vital services.” said Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank CEO and Co-Chair of the ID4D High Level Advisory Council. “We must work together to create inclusive and trusted digital ID systems that can unlock economic opportunities for the world’s most vulnerable people.”

The World Bank Group estimates it will take US$6 billion to meet Africa’s digital identification and civil registration needs. Through the ID4D initiative, the World Bank Group is providing a comprehensive package of financial and technical support at national- and regional-levels in Africa. Nearly US$1 billion is being mobilized for digital identification and civil registration projects across 30 countries – 23 of which are in Africa. For example, recently-approved and pipeline projects in West Africa will build foundational identification platforms that are interoperable across borders for more than 200 million people. ID4D is also providing global advisory services to many countries, including on design, laws and regulations and public engagement, with a special emphasis on inclusion, data protection and privacy, and technology and vendor neutrality, underpinned by the  Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development.

“Digital identification can play an important role in achieving the sustainable development goals. It can enable the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people to gain access to critical services, from education to healthcare and financing, while also advancing their legal and political rights,” said Amina Mohamed, Deputy Secretary- General of the United Nations and Co-Chair of the ID4D High Level Advisory Council.

With a groundswell of innovation, increased financing and commitment, Africa has the opportunity to build inclusive and trusted digital ID systems that will transform countries and the continent into the digital economy, unlocking new pathways for rapid economic growth, job creation and access to services. A common approach across Africa is needed in order to realize this potential, ensuring that digital identification systems can be used across borders and are not built in isolation.

If half of our population cannot prove who they are, how can they engage and exercise their rights? Africa must get this right and be bold. We need a common approach across Africa to not only provide people with a way to prove who they are, but also put in place responsible and trusted systems which respect people’s right to privacy,” said Mo Ibrahim, Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and a Member of the World Bank’s ID4D High Level Advisory Council

Mission Billion

The global identification gap is significant and complex.  To spur innovative solutions to this problem, ID4D and its partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Australian Government, Omidyar Network, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, announced Mission Billion, an annual innovation challenge which will focus on a single pressing issue each year. The challenge this year aims to surface practical and cost-effective ‘privacy by design’ features that can be embedded into digital identification systems around the world. 

“Mission Billion is an exciting opportunity to tap the most creative minds and tackle the global identification gap.  When digital identity provides people with greater control over their personal data, it can empower them to create opportunities and access to services in ways that had been unimaginable just a decade ago,” said Nandan Nilekani, Founding Chair, Unique Identification Authority of India and a Member of the World Bank’s ID4D High Level Advisory Council who will serve as an advisor to Mission Billion.

About the Identification for Development Initiative (ID4D)

The World Bank Group’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative helps countries realize the transformational potential of digital identification. ID4D is a cross sectoral initiative that works closely with countries and partners to enable all people to exercise their rights and to access services, including to provide identification to the estimated 1 billion people currently without one. ID4D has three pillars of activity: country and regional engagement; thought leadership; and global convening and platforms. The ID4D agenda supports the achievement of the World Bank Group’s two overarching goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and promoting shared prosperity. ID4D is supported by the Gates Foundation, Omidyar Network, and the Australian Government.



Washington D.C.
Mittpheap Steele
+1 (202) 473-3335