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Universal birth registration could be lasting legacy of African Union’s 50th anniversary

ADDIS ABABA, 20 May 2013 – The 50th ‘birthday’ of the African Union is a chance to make a lasting commitment to the continent’s children by giving every child a name and legal status and bringing lasting change and social benefits for over 1 billion people in Africa, UNICEF said today.

The child population of the continent is expected to rise by 130 million by 2025, demographic studies show. By mid-century almost 1 in every 3 children globally will live in Africa. By 2030, sub-Saharan Africa will have the greatest number of children under the age of 18 anywhere in the world.

“Africa’s greatest resource is its children,” said Martin Mogwanja, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “Yet the aspirations of the continent can only be truly achieved when children have their rights to survival, development and protection realized. The first step on that road is making sure that every child, no matter where they are, is counted and is given a legal identity.”

Only 44 per cent of Africa’s children under the age of five have their births registered, meaning that half of all African children are not counted as citizens. In many African countries, rural children are much less likely to be registered and are therefore invisible to governments so that they are cut off from social services and legal protection crucial to their survival and futures.

Inequities affect many children in Africa, especially in the poorest families and in places where education levels are low or where they live in remote areas or among marginalized communities.

Without legal identities, children can be denied access to basic services such as schooling. Without details of their age, they cannot be easily protected against child labour, recruitment into armed forces or militias, human trafficking, early marriage and other forms of exploitation.

UNICEF is working closely with the African Union, the African Development Bank, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and other UN organizations, with support from the European Union, to strengthen civil registration and vital statistics systems by using innovations, integrating services and building partnerships.

“We welcome the anniversary’s focus on Africa’s collective future,” said Mr. Mogwanja. “By starting with strong civil registration systems, not only will the continent be closer to meeting its commitments to children but these investments will help inform planning needs for the next generation as well as meeting broader development goals.”

The biggest absolute increase in child populations in 2010-2025 will mostly take place in sub-Saharan Africa. In percentage terms, the top 10 countries with increases in child populations are all in sub-Saharan Africa: Zambia (66 per cent), Niger (64), Malawi (63), United Republic of Tanzania (57), Somalia (50), Burkina Faso (48), Uganda (47), Mali (46), Rwanda (45) and Nigeria (41).

Nigeria will more than double its 2012 population by mid–century. Current projections by the UN Population Division are that Nigeria will account for 1 in every 8 child deaths in 2010-2025.

Over the next 10 years, there will be 108 million more school-age children in Africa. In some Sub-Saharan African countries, the population of school-aged children will double between 2010 and 2025. This will add hugely to the burden on governments to provide education and essential services.


NOTE TO EDITORS: As part of celebrations to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the African Union, a High Level Panel on The Scandal of Invisibility in Africa, will be held on Tuesday, 21 May 2013, from 15:00 to 17:00, at the new AU Conference Centre, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Panel will be moderated by Uduak Amimo, a prominent African news journalist with extensive experience reporting on the continent. A broadcast quality audio recording will be made available to media partners by Channel Africa Radio, part of South African Broadcasting Corporation.


UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

In June 2012, the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States with UNICEF launched a global roadmap to end preventable deaths of children under the age of five. Since then, under the banner of Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, more than 170 countries have signed up and renewed their commitment to child survival. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

For more information, please contact:

Anthony Mwangi, Public Affairs Manager, UNICEF Liaison Office to the AU and UNECA
Telephone: +251-11-518-4223, Mobile: +251-911-513-058,

Shantha Bloemen, Chief of Communications, UNICEF Africa Service Unit, Mobile +27 (0) 79 495 5938,




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